Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Group says 3 rivers contaminated

Group says 3 rivers contaminated
High levels of chromium hexavalent--EMB
Three major rivers inside the former American naval base in Subic have high levels of chromium hexavalent, a contaminant that has killed several people in the United States, a group, quoting a government report, said.

This was disclosed on Wednesday by the Alliance for Bases Clean-up (ABC) International during a forum with Japanese volunteers, who arrived here to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.

Quoting a study conducted by the Environmental Management Board, Myrla Baldonado, president of ABC-International, said the Binictican, Boton and Malawaan rivers in the northern part of this city contained contaminants that could cause respiratory problems, infertility and lumps.

"The contaminant is exactly the same as the culprit in the deaths and illnesses of people in the award winning and true-to-life movie Erin Brokovich," Baldonado said.

Brokovich is a single mother of three working in a California law firm who uncovered cancer-causing chemicals dumped by the Pacific Gas & Electric into unlined ponds in Hinckley, California.

Baldonado said the incident could also occur in communities around the former US military installation here.

"These rivers, where people usually catch fish and take a bath, transverse the old dump inside the Subic Bay Freeport," she said.

Baldonado's group has joined the "Peace Boat," a Japanese-based non-government organization that conducts global peace voyages.

She briefed the Japanese volunteers on updates on the issue of contamination of former US facilities in Clark in Pampanga and Subic.

During the forum, Baldonado also cited another study of the Department of Health that showed that 47 out of 97 people who used to live in former US motor pools in the Clark Air Base Command (Cabcom) had high levels of arsenic and lead in their blood.

"This study confirms earlier findings by a DOH doctor that there are high levels of lead in the blood of pregnant women and children in the area," she said.

"The port call of Peace Boat in Subic is timely. The USS Stockholm will dock at the same site (on Thursday) and it is a great opportunity for the citizens to come together and protest the continued and unlimited access of the US to our ports," Baldonado said.

She said while it used to be only Subic and Clark, American troops are all over the country "polluting our environment while they continue to walk away from the responsibility to clean up heavily polluted bases."

The Japanese ship, which has become a floating peace village over the past years, docked at the Alava Pier in Subic Bay on Wednesday.

The Japanese will learn about the local communities and help victims of toxic wastes left in the former American military bases in the country press the US government for bases cleanup.

Around 1,500 members of various cause-oriented groups staged a "peace march" on Wednesday afternoon to call on the US government to claim responsibility for toxic waste contamination.


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