Waste-to-energy projects detrimental to environment and human health – expert

Von Hernandez of EcoWaste Coalition. Mindanews Photo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 05 December) – Waste-to-energy (WTE) projects produce the most toxic chemical substances that are detrimental to environment and human health, a former chief technical advisor on Global Environment Pojects of the United Nations Development Programme, said.

“All thermal WTE technologies produce the most toxic substances known to Science. I am a scientist and also an engineer. In Science, the most toxic chemical we know are a group of compounds known as dioxins. Dioxins are produced by all of these WTE technologies,” Dr. Jose Emnnauel told a press conference on Monday.

Waste-to-energy is the process of producing energy  in the form of electricity and/or heat from the incineration of waste

Emmanuel said the Philippines does not have the capability yet to manage any WTE technology and commission vigorous and expensive testing to monitor the level of the WTE plant is releasing into the environment.

“Dioxins are toxic even at a very, very small concentrations. For example, if you put one drop of dioxin into a lake, that is enough to produce harmful effects on people who eat the fish in the lake,” he said.

Eliza Madroza, chief of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) said the City Government, which produces 600 metric tons of waste a day, met with some Japanese investors in March 2016 who offered help in putting up a WTE facility here.

She said nothing has been firmed up yet.

Emmanuel said people who are exposed to dioxins are at risk of getting cancer, dysfunction of ovaries in women, reproductive disorders in men whose mothers have been exposed to dioxin, and decreases the IQ level among the children.

“The moral issue is that if you release dioxin today, that dioxin will remain in our environment for at least 40 generations, so that means we are not only endangering ourselves and our children. We are endangering our great, great, great, great, and great grand children because it will take a long time for dioxin to disappear from the environment,” he said.

He also urged the government to study the proposals of the more advanced countries, particularly Japan, in putting up a WTE plant here.

He said WTE companies are able to offer these technologies at a lower price because they reduce the pollution control mechanisms that will prevent the release of dioxin into the air.

“What the WTE plants will tell you, we can put in a lot of technologies to clean up the dioxin, but the first thing that you need to know is that it doesn’t make the dioxin disappear, all of these technologies simply concentrate the dioxin and put it in the ash. It needs to be handled as hazardous wastes and need to go to the special landfills. This is one of the hidden cost of the WTE technologies,” he said.

“They won’t tell you that but if the ash or waste from the WTE is dumped in a regular landfill, it will continue to affect or health, and continue to affect for many generations,” he added.

He added that the  Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government units are not capable testing and monitoring domestically the dioxins.

“Only a few countries in the world have that capability, so when you bring in these technologies, our country has no way of validating and proving that the dioxin levels are really low. We only have to accept what the Japanese tells us, what the Americans tell us, and the Europeans tell us,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)