Balanga water execs risk facing raps over wastewater

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    THE Commission on Audit has warned officials of the Balanga Water District and other agencies involved in water management that they could face criminal charges for failing to comply with the 2008 directive from the Supreme Court to address dumping of raw sewage and untreated wastewater into rivers and the Manila Bay.

    In the 2020 audit of Balanga WD, government auditors warned that the SC mandamus of 2008 and RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004 required all local water districts in the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, and Bataan to provide, install, and maintain sewerage and sanitation facilities “at the earliest possible time.”

    Likewise, the Local Water Utilities Administration LWUA) issued Memorandum Circular No. 0008.16 requiring that sanitation programs and water treatment facilities should be in operation by December 31, 2020.

    They noted that the Balanga WD was unable to implement a septage management plan, which means untreated sewage will continue to end up in rivers and waterways or contaminate the local water supply.

    The water district’s general manager informed the audit team that efforts were made to address the problem, including a two-year negotiation with Manila Water through Clark Water Inc. for a Bataan province-wide water treatment project.

    But the talks fell through because the Bataan water districts found the cost being offered too expensive.

    Likewise, the Balanga WD sought offers from private proponents but found little interest because of its limited financial resources.

    A plan to purchase a five cubic meter septage vacuum truck last year had to be called off due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On the other hand, the city government of Balanga has issued City Ordinance No. 13 requiring a proper septage management system for residents and business establishments in the city.

    A similar ordinance was also issued by the provincial government directing the LWUA and concerned agencies to implement a sewerage treatment program.

    “By failing to implement the SMP (septage management plan) the wastewater discharged by the different households and commercial establishments may continue to leak and flow into our river systems and contaminate the water. Moreover, officials of different agencies with water management functions may be subjected to criminal liability if they fail continuously in complying with the SC mandamus,” the COA said.