7 Cebu City rivers breach acceptable fecal coliform level

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THE Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Central Visayas has found high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in Cebu City’s major rivers.

The presence of the bacteria in the rivers of Guadalupe, Kinalumsan, Mahiga, Lahug, Estero de Parian, Bulacao, and Butuanon can be traced to human and animal waste, said EMB.

Kay Espinosa, senior environmental management specialist of EMB Central Visayas, said this renders these rivers risky for human health, as large quantities of fecal coliform can cause diseases or ailments, such as an upset stomach or diarrhea.

The status of the seven rivers in the city was discussed during the first-ever river summit held at Quest Hotel on Archbishop Reyes Ave. Thursday, June 2, 2022.

Espinosa said rivers have different classifications, but the acceptable Most Probable Number (MPN) of fecal coliform bacteria should not exceed 400 MPN.

However, based on the water testing conducted by the EMB 7 from January to March 2022, all seven rivers exceeded the allowable levels for water quality.

In the Kinalumsan River, the fecal coliform bacteria have already reached three million MPN, while the Mahiga River is at eight million MPN in its downstream part and three million MPN upstream.

The coliform level of Butuanon River is five million MPN; Bulacao River, three million MPN; and Guadalupe and Estero de Parian Rivers, 240,000 MPN each.

The river with the lowest coliform count is the Lahug River at 24,000 MPN.

The other factors checked by the EMB 7 were the dissolved oxygen level, biochemical oxygen demand, and total suspended solids.

Espinosa is hopeful that these rivers can still be revived and improved.

“We do not usually declare biologically dead, because as long as we have programs, projects, and work closely with our different stakeholders there is hope for our rivers,” said Espinosa.

Espinosa hopes that through this summit, the local government, together with the barangays and other stakeholders, will be encouraged to work closely with EMB for the implementation of laws and programs to improve the water quality of the rivers.

In a separate interview, engineer Myka Marie Llanos of the Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CCENRO) said it is undeniable that the city’s rivers are full of garbage.

Llanos emphasized the importance of having a water treatment facility to ensure that water coming from households and establishments will be treated first before it is dumped into the river or ocean.

According to Llanos, there is already a plan to build a facility that can serve the entire city, but this was delayed because of the documents and site for the project.

Llanos also pleaded with residents to help them in revitalizing the rivers since their office lacks manpower and resources.

The CCENRO is closely coordinating with the barangays to deputize some residents so that they can issue citation tickets to those who violate environmental laws.

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