July 26, 2017, 2:37 am
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Unmonitored coal industry

THE Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) challenged DENR to come up and make available all the records of Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) of all the coal plants that have been operating since the passage of the Clean Air Act. This will reveal all the readings on sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3). DENR should be concerned of these gases SO2, NO2 and COs. They are lethal to humans and any living creature, as well as they also destroy climate.

The continuous emission monitoring system that Secretary Cimatu mentioned is operated by coal plant companies, which have not been monitored and examined by independent third party. Cimatu’s statement is a reflection of his low prioritization on the subject matter. As secretary, he should spearhead the revisions of the Clean Air Act; its relevance, applicability and scientific accuracy in the present time.

Based on a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 50 micrograms per cubic meter is categorized as unhealthy and is expected to cause respiratory symptoms to sensitive individuals and aggravation of heart or lung diseases, and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary diseases and the elderly. 

Coal is either extracted from deep inside the earth or removed from its surface. The former is known as underground mining, the latter as strip mining or mountaintop removal. Either process contributes a high level of damage to the environment:

#12 Noise pollution: Coal mining is a loud, day- and night-long process that disrupts the lives of those in the surrounding communities, reduces the quality of life and can go on for decades.

#11 Loss Of Wildlife: Coal mining requires a large expanse of territory. When a mining operation moves in, it invades and destroys sizable ranges of wilderness area, displacing the native fauna and removing habitat and food sources...and even the endangerment or extinction of entire species.

#10 Sink Holes: “Mine subsidence” -- the earth sinking as a result of a disturbance to its foundation. This occurs when the coal deep below our planet’s surface is removed from its bed.

#9 Topographical Alteration: Coal mining irreparably damages plant life and soil, creating barren patches of land that are not only aesthetically unpleasing but contribute to loss of valuable topsoil, erosion and dust storms.

#8 Flooding: Coal mining and preparation generates millions of gallons of highly toxic, semi-solid waste called “slurry.” To contain the slurry, dams are often built in between the mountains from where the coal is being mined. Slurry dams have failed, resulting in deadly floods and ensuing environmental disaster.

#7 Water Pollution: Highly acidic runoff from coal stocks and handling facilities, known as acid mine drainage (AMD), infiltrates waterways, contaminating local water supply and affecting the PH balance in the surrounding lakes and streams.

#6 Air Pollution: Coal dust is dangerous if inhaled over an extensive period of time. People with prolonged exposure to coal dust are at high risk of contracting “Black lung disease,” which left untreated can lead to lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and heart failure.

#5 Fires: Since coal is combustible, the threat of fire is another example of the environmental effects of coal mining. If a fire occurs in a coal bed, it can last for years or even decades, spreading and releasing noxious fumes into the surrounding community.

#4 Toxicity: Coal and coal waste contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic, which are highly toxic both to plant and animal life.

#3 Acid Rain: The high acidity of AMD remains in the water supply even through evaporation and condensation, which enables it to stay in the atmosphere and eventually return in the form of “acid rain,” thus perpetuating the cycle of pollution.

#2 Radiation: Coal contains trace elements of radium and uranium, which, when released into the environment, can lead to radioactive contamination. These elements occur in small amounts, enough coal is routinely burned at coal processing plants to produce dangerous levels of radioactive waste.

#1 Climate Change: High levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is released during the mining process, contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer. Carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, is released in the combustion (burning) process, when coal is used to fuel electric generators and steam engines. As a result, global warming is probably one of the most significant and widely-felt environmental effects of coal mining.

***

Dahliaspillera@yahoo.com
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