Residents near rivers in Davao alerted of chemical spill

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 Aug) – Residents living along the banks of the Davao River and its tributary Suawan River have been alerted to avoid “fishing and swimming” as authorities confirmed a chemical spill after a trailer truck carrying hazardous substance fell 50 feet off a cliff in Barangay Suawan in Marilog District late evening Monday.

The truck carrying hazardous substance after the fall. Photo courtesy of Davao City Central 911

The Davao City Central 911 said they received a call about the incident at exactly 11:44 p.m.
Retired PCol. Alfredo Baloran, chief of City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO), told Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) that the incident killed the driver and injured another worker.
Shortly after some of the “caustic soda” or sodium hydroxide had spilled, he said authorities have seen dead fish floating along the Suawan River, an indication of water contamination, but added that they are currently assessing the extent of the chemical spill.
He said it is possible that the poisonous substance has travelled further downstream, reaching as far as Davao River.
“In our investigation, there were dead fish in this tributary river. It’s dangerous. If you see dead or weakened fish, you cannot catch and consume them because it might affect your health,” Baloran warned.
He said the chemical could potentially cause health hazards to people who come in direct contact with the contaminated water as it could cause severe burns of the skin, vomiting, and diarrhea.
He said that personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection had recovered most of the chemicals but there were some that had already made their way to the river.

Rescuers in full protective gear. Photo courtesy of Davao City Central 911

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-and Environmental Management Bureau, Baloran said, is conducting water samples to determine the adverse effect of the chemical spill.
According to the Center for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) of the United States, the caustic soda can burn “the eyes, skin, and inner membranes, and cause temporary hair loss.”
It added that among the uses of sodium hydroxide include production of “soaps, rayon, paper, products that explode, dyes, and petroleum products.”
It added that the substance could also be used in tasks “such as processing cotton fabric, metal cleaning and processing, oxide coating, electroplating, and electrolytic extraction. It is often found in commercial drain and oven cleaners.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)