OpinionsEnvironment ConnectionWatch out for oil pollution

Watch out for oil pollution

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One environmental hazard these days is oil pollution of our freshwaters and marine waters.

This threat to the integrity of our waters in the country has not reached the lower levels of our consciousness. Yet, we see this threat around us at all times, especially in relatively small, fragile environments like small islands of the Philippines, Negros Island included.

We must all realize the vulnerability of our country. Just look at the world map, and realize our position as a small country (relative to large masses of continents) that is cut up into small pieces of islands surrounded by marine waters.

Our country can easily run out of potable freshwater to sustain our ever-growing population, that some scientists have predicted that water crisis could hit us in the future because of climate changes beyond our ability to control.

Our people and our government officials should seriously consider this threat and make every effort to prevent it from happening by taking proactive action now, not tomorrow.

Our waters, marine and fresh, are so important to our health and well being that we cannot afford to neglect safeguarding our seas and our freshwater water supplies.

We should learn lessons from developed nations. In the United States such as the state of New Jersey, environmental laws regarding the quality of ground water are strongly enforced.

Testing the presence of oil in water is serious business. I personally know this because my own son is involved in the testing of ground water for the presence of oil and petroleum products that leak from oil depots. The government of New Jersey requires this test before approving permits to build houses.

The Philippines lags behind in this environmental action. One can build oil depots/oil pipelines in practically any part of the land, including sites in the vicinity of natural springs.

Oil depots are a potential source of oil leaks into ground water. Local government units in general are insensitive to, or unaware of possible consequences of oil/gasoline spills resulting from natural events such as earthquakes, and even just the vibrations of the soil caused by the passage of large, heavy vehicles on roads near gasoline pipelines and depots.

In this connection, take note of the recent gasoline spill in Makati that has displaced a large number of people residing in a large building.

Who knows how much oil is found in groundwater in the Makati area affected by the gasoline spill? In this regard, who knows how many people drink or use water tainted with oil in the whole country?

Talking about oil pollution in marine waters, the world has just experienced a serious case of prolonged oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, causing large scale damage to coastal and marine resources.

We had our own experience in southern Guimaras Island marine waters in 2006 and sometime before that event in nearby waters as well, as in other sites on the island of Luzon.

The former oil spill damaged coastal areas and disrupted livelihood activities in the affected area. These events should tell us that oil pollution resulting from oil spills can happen with a certain probability.

Precaution should, therefore, be exercised as early as possible. Local governments must take the lead.

I offer this article as a document for present and future use in cases of oil/gasoline/petroleum spills from depots located near or in the vicinity of freshwater sources such as springs, etc.

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