San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. (SCBI) was granted permission today, February 23, to resume operations for two days to finish processing the sugarcane stock at its plant, after which it will have to stop and put pollution control measures in place, San Carlos City Mayor Renato Gustilo said.
The SCBI, which started operations in 2008, produces 42 million liters of bioethanol per annum and 8 megawatts of electricity from sugarcane, the San Carlos City Environment Management Office said.
The SCBI plant temporarily shut down Friday, February 19, on orders of Gustilo who warned that he would recommend an Environmental Management Bureau cease-and-desist order should it fail to address its pollution violations.
Gustilo said SCBI committed several environmental violations, including a series of incidents of water discoloration along the coastal waters of So. Maloloy-on, Brgy. Punao, due to its wastewater discharges.
The mayor in a meeting with SCBI officials today agreed to their request to be allowed to finish processing their existing cane stock on Wednesday and Thursday. They must then stop operations on Friday, the mayor said.
However, they must drain their pond of spent wash to prevent overflows, Gustilo stressed.
Arthur Batomalaque, Senior Environment Management Specialist of the City Environment Management Office (CEMO), said that the bioethanol plant has a 16-hectare pond that holds 700 to 1,000 cubic meters of daily effluent.
The city government will use a drone to monitor the status of the ponds, Gustilo said.
CEMO personnel will also be stationed at the plant to ensure that no new sugarcane stock is brought in, Gustilo said.
On Friday, SCBI must stop operations and put in improvements to prevent its recurring wastewater pollution problem, he added.
SCBI will be allowed to resume operations after a CEMO evaluation, Gustilo added.
Melvin Maglayon, a Conservation Fellow of the Fishforever program of the city, said any industrial waste that reaches the sea is very harmful because pollutants can lower dissolved oxygen levels causing fish kill.
Harmful chemicals also affect the fragile coastal ecosystems like mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs and most importantly, “it decreases fish catch among fishermen near the area and affects tourism as well if pollutants reach tourist spot like Sipaway Island,” he said.*