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Cleanup resumes as protective gear arrive

September 15, 2006

BY MONTESA GRIÑO
Panay News

GUIMARAS – The manual cleanup of oil sludge in affected barangays here resumes today after four days of work stoppage as advised by the Department of Health (DOH) due of high levels of toxic fumes.

On Monday, DOH ordered the stoppage of clean-up operation in barangays Tando, Lucmayan, San Roque, San Antonio and Lapaz, all in the town of Nueva Valencia, because 950 hired laborers lacked the necessary protective gears.

They only had ordinary masks, rubber boots and gloves instead of the more specialized half mask respirators and overall chemical suites.

The 950 workers were part of the 1,600 persons hired by Petron for the clean-up operations.

Although the cleanup resumes today, however, not all of the 950 workers from the five barangays could go back to work; only 500 of them can because DOH was only able to deliver 500 half mask respirators yesterday.

According to Petron Corp. spokesperson Carlos Tan, the remaining 450 workers would be able to resume their work in a few days when a similar number of protective gear arrive.

Tan said that with the four-day work stoppage, “almost 60 percent of the operation was affected.”

DOH stopped the cleanup on Monday because of the high level of hydrogen sulfide emitted by the bunker fuel oil slick.

DOH said workers should use full-face masks with air-purifying respirators, chemical-resistant clothing, including coveralls, gloves and steel-toed boots with boot covers.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a highly toxic gas and is considered a broad-spectrum poison – that is, it can poison several different systems in the body with the nervous system mostly affected.

Just a few breaths of air containing high levels of H2S gas can cause death.
Exposure to lower concentrations can result in eye irritation, a sore throat and cough, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs.

These symptoms usually go away in a few weeks. Long-term, low-level exposure, however, may result in fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, poor memory, and dizziness.

Nueva Valencia Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga said DOH is imposing the “no proper personal equipment, no work policy” as a safety measure in the clean-up.

Stringent protective measures must be observed, he added.

SITUATIONER

According to the Project Ligtas Guimaras Situationer released by Petron on September 13, the area covered by the cleanup in Guimaras as of September 12 already reached 124.34 kilometers. The volume of debris collected reached 1,461.86 metric tons.

The Project Ligtas Guimaras Situationer of Petron also reported that cleanup in the following barangays/sitios have been completed (subject to DENR’s certification):

* Canhawan, Nueva Valencia
* Igdarapdap, Nueva Valencia
* Dolores, Nueva Valencia
* Sitio Sumirib, La Paz, Nueva Valencia
* Sitio Daku, Panobolon, Nueva Valencia
* Sitio Duitay, Panobolon, Nueva Valencia
* Tando, Nueva Valencia
* Alegria, Sibunag

WASTE DISPOSAL

Still from the Ligtas Guimaras Situationer released by Petron, the transfer of recovered debris started last September 5.

Fifteen hauling trucks and one boom truck have already been contracted to haul the collected debris to Cabalagnan wharf for loading. First priority for the hauling of debris will be the barangays with evacuees.

A total of 11,418 sacks have already been hauled from the following barangays:

* Cabalagnan
* San Antonio
* La Paz
* Tando
* Igdarapdap
* Lucmayan
* Panobolon
* Naouay
* San Roque
* Alegria
* Guiwanon
* Canhawan
* Dolores.

(For this and other oil spill stories, click Panay News, Sept. 15, 2006.)

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