Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Envi-groups laud DOH scrapping of incinerator plan

This was the call of Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia
(HCWH-SEA), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA),
Greenpeace and Ecowaste Coalition in a round table discussion with the
Department of Health (DoH) where the later announced the scrapping of
planned revival of incinerators.

The DoH's draft Health Executive Agenda for Legislation proposed
amendment of the Clean Air Act (1) to allow the use of incinerators
designed in such a way that product combustion gases shall be treated
and harmful emissions are removed before gases are released to the
atmosphere and (2) advance emission control design and stringent
regulation shall ensure wastes are disposed without detrimental impact
to the environment.

The four organizations immediately questioned the proposal and sent a
letter asking the Department to scrap the plan. DoH immediately
retracted the plan and said it will no longer include incineration in
the HEAL which will be presented in Congress.

Cancel incinerator plan, cancel incinerator debt

The groups likewise asked the DoH to take an active role in pushing
the Legislative to cancel the debt payment for the P503-million
Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project.

The government started paying the loan in 2001 and is scheduled to pay
an average US$2 million a year until 2014.

It is the group's assertion that the annual payment of the debt of
US$2M should be re-channeled to much needed health services,
specifically funding for safe waste treatment and disposal of public
hospitals and other health care facilities' infectious wastes.

In 1999, Philippines successfully banned the use of incinerators for
general wastes and subsequently the use of incinerators for medical
waste in 2003 "which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes" with the
approval of the CAA. The country remains the only country in the world
to ban incinerators.

According to the group of environmentalists, "We are paying for
supposedly state-of-the-art medical waste incinerators that were
proven to be substandard and emitting dioxins way beyond the limit set
by CAA. One of these incinerators, for instance, scandalously emitted
nine times the limit for particulate matter, twelve times the limit
set for hydrogen chloride, almost double the limit for lead and 870
times the limit for dioxins and furans compared to the CAA threshold."

Alternatives everywhere

HCWH-SEA highlighted the presence of alternatives to incineration
which are far safer. They cited several hospitals who for years have
used the basics of waste management. These are waste minimization,
segregation, proper training and knowledge of safe non-burn treatment
systems and technologies.

"There is no need for us to go back to incineration." according to
Merci Ferrer of HCWH-SEA. "What DOH and other government agencies
concerned on wastes should do is sustain their efforts in monitoring
the compliance of health care facilities on proper health care waste
management and be vigilant on the resurgence of incinerators in the
guise of pyrolisis, plasma, thermal oxidizer…"


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