By June Blanco
Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado maintains that opening the San Jose outfall in Tagbilaran City is a major environmental disaster waiting to happen.
But contrary to local newspaper accounts last week, he has not issued a verbal order to close it – much more an executive order to do so.
Lawyer Tomas Abapo Jr., provincial administrator, issued the clarification during the weekly forum The Governor Reports simulcast live over the city's radio stations.
Abapo substituted for Aumentado who was in Manila for a series of meetings.
Aumentado had expressed "very serious concern" on the opening of the San Jose drainage outfall into the Tagbilaran and Maribojoc Bay in a letter to Environment Secretary Jose Atienza Jr. dated November 24.
Attaching copies of the results of bacteriological tests conducted separately by the University of San Carlos (USC) – Water Laboratory and the Provincial Health Office (PHO) on waste water from the outfall before it reached the seawater of the bay, he appealed to Atienza to order its closure, open it during actual rainy days only to prevent flooding in CPG North Avenue and other areas, but close it immediately thereafter.
Provincial Health Officer Reymoses Cabagnot and Bohol Environment Management Office (BEMO) head Renato Villaber had submitted to him the results.
USC used the membrane filtration method that indicated total coliforms "too numerous to count", these being greater than 2,000 colonies per 100 ml.
The PHO water laboratory regularly tests samples from different artesian wells, waterworks systems, other potable water sources, bottled water manufacturers and even beach areas to monitor total coliform and fecal coliform content, among others.
Medical Technologist II Ruby Rosita Mandin said the PHO counted 2,400 total coliforms per 100 ml – way too high over the standard 1,000 most probable number (MPN) per 100 ml set in Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order (DENR AO) 34, series of 1990 to be safe for bathing.
Mandin also said for water to be safe for bathing, the fecal coliform must only be up to 200 MPN/100 ml. At 2,400 MPN/100 ml, the San Jose outfall count is again way too high, she emphasized.
Fecal coliform or Escherichia coli (E. coli) comes from the excreta of warm blooded animals – human beings included, she explained.
Other sources of coliform are rotten wood or vegetation and even the soil, Mandin said.
For his part, Provincial Sanitarian Romeo Cabanes said closing the outfall will certainly increase the coliform count in the drainage system considering that the illegally connected sewers will continuously contribute E. coli to it.
However, finds opening the outfall during rainy days the more prudent and better thing to do to prevent fecal and other coliforms from endangering the health of residents along and motorists passing through CPG North Avenue directly affected by flooding.
In their transmittal letter to Aumentado with copies furnished Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Lim and Provincial Board member Cesar Tomas Lopez, chair of the PB Committee on Health, Cabagnot and Villaber said the results of both the fecal and total coliform counts are "way above acceptable standards" and "will definitely pose danger to the health and safety of constituents."
Meanwhile, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Nestor Canda said the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Central Visayas laboratory test results will be ready this week yet as their method requires a seven-day incubation period that ended only last Friday, December 5.