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Marilao, Meycauayan listed among world's 'dirtiest'

A New York-based environmental watchdog has named Meycauayan City and Marilao town in Bulacan as two of the filthiest places on Earth. Blacksmith Institute, an environmental group that monitors pollution levels in different parts of the globe, included the two sites in its "Dirty Thirty" list of the World's Worst Polluted Places for 2007. The report, released last September 12, puts Meycauayan and Marilao in the same league as places like Chernobyl in Ukraine as well as Tianying and Lanfin towns in China. Marilao and Meycauayan are the only South East Asian areas in the list. The annual study, administered by a technical advisory board composed of 18 field experts, noted the presence of heavy metals, chemicals, and other forms of waste in the river system of Meycauayan, Marilao as well as another Bulacan town, Obando. "The river system is extremely polluted due to waste received from tanneries, gold and precious metals refineries, the largest lead smelter in the Philippines, and numerous municipal dumpsites," the report read. It added that, "Substantial contamination also results from small-scale lead recycling facilities along the river at Marilao and from the many tanneries that dump untreated hexavalent chromium wastewater into the river." Even if the river is a source of drinking and irrigation water for some 250,000 residents, industrial waste continues to be "haphazardly dumped" into the river system, the report said. Based on the 2000 census, Meycauayan and Marilao have a combined total population of 276,308. However, the Blacksmith report did not overlook collaborative efforts by various groups to remedy the problem in the next several years. The report for instance noted the "considerable" effort of the local government to encourage and guide the clean up of the river system. "Efforts are ongoing to obtain national and international financial assistance," the report added. For his part, Marilao Mayor Epifanio Guillermo said the waste came from Bagong Silang area in nearby Caloocan City in Metro Manila. "It hurts to be on that list ... We are just here at the side of the river, but residents of Bagong Silang [in Caloocan] throw their waste into the river and we end up being notorious. I wish the [Caloocan] residents can be taught to dispose their wastes properly," Guillermo said in Filipino on dzBB radio. Guillermo said Marilao residents are disciplined and have a regular schedule of garbage collection. He added that local residents also have a dumping site for their garbage. However, he said the river in Marilao also connects to Caloocan City in northern Metro Manila. "Who makes the river dirty? Not us," he said. When the river overflows due to high tide, rains or floods, the garbage goes all the way to Marilao and other Bulacan areas such as Meycauayan and Obando, he added. "I had to talk to the mayor of Caloocan to help us, to tell the residents there to stop dumping their garbage into the river," he said. GMA News tried but was unable to contact Meycauayan Mayor Joan Alarilla for her comments. She was not at city hall and was also not in her home when a GMA crew visited the area Local folk, however, told GMA News that they have long been coping with the river's pollution problem. As this developed, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza said he wants "to precisely talk to the mayor of (Marilao), so that we can discuss possibly different ways of helping him out or doing whatever is necessary." - GMANews.TV