VMC continues rehab efforts in Malihaw River

VMC employees and volunteers conducted a clean-up drive in the Malihaw River as part of their continuing efforts to help rehabilitate the waterways in Victorias City.

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Victorias Milling Company (VMC) mobilized employees and volunteers in their recent waterways clean-up drive as part of continuing efforts to rehabilitate the Malihaw River in Victorias City, Negros Occidental.

VMC President Linley Retirado said Tuesday that the clean-up was conducted in collaboration with the regional Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) as part of Environment Month to “ensure that our waterways remain clean and safe and also to protect marine life.”

VMC also invited environmental experts to assess and set up additional mitigating measures to ensure that their wastewater treatment facility levels are stabilized which eradicated the odor caused by the molasses leak last month.

Environmental specialist Dr. Ram Bautista of the University of the Philippines Visayas said, “The positive impact of this incident is that it has caused VMC to start developing new protocols for molasses tank monitoring and emergency response plan.”

“The company is now in the course of improving the performance of the wastewater treatment plant to consistently comply with the effluent standards of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and to accommodate and treat sudden increases in organic load,” Bautista added.

VMC recently requested the Sugar Regulatory Administration as a third-party monitoring agency to validate and assess their findings and recent tests conducted at the Daan Banwa in Barangay 9 and at Avery Bridge showed that ambient water quality levels in the river have stabilized.

Results in the report show that upon a series of close monitoring, the water quality has improved in BOD such that it went below the maximum value of 50mg/L and further decreased when resampled several days after.

BOD is a measure of the amount of oxygen required to remove waste organic matter from water in the process of decomposition by aerobic bacteria (those bacteria that live only in an environment containing oxygen). 50 mg/L is the maximum BOD for class C water. Anything below 50 is within standard.

Other findings were likewise validated by the Victorias City Environment and Natural Resources Office which issued a statement that VMC’s wastewater ponds have been “stabilized.”

The VCENRO team was present during the water sampling at the wastewater plant of the mill, noting that “VMC had effectively controlled the adverse effects of the molasses spill on its wastewater treatment facility and resolved the issue of the foul odor.”

Recently, a fact-finding committee was organized to probe the molasses spillage incident of VMC at the Malihaw River in Victorias City, Negros Occidental, where a foul odor affected more than 200 families.

Mayor Javier Miguel “Javi” Benitez said that the molasses spillage took place on May 5, after a 10,000 metric ton capacity molasses tank of the said sugar central exploded and its contents spilled into the Malihaw River.

The foul odor, which has spread to different barangays of Victorias, becomes worse during nighttime, according to complaining residents, who have been enduring it for more than two weeks.

Benitez reported that the foul odor has affected residents of Brgys. 6A, 9, and 13, all in Victorias City.