Makati residents affected by gas leak may go back home in July

RESIDENTS of West Tower Condominium in Makati City may be able to come back to their respective units by July, a year after vacating their homes.

The CH2MHill Philippines Inc., the US-based environmental remediation company engaged by First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC), plans to start the multi-phase remediation works for the pipeline leak in Barangay Bangkal in May to prevent any further seepage of petroleum products in the condominium’s basement.

“We’re looking at the third quarter, July at the earliest for the residents to be able to come back but this will have to pass through government approvals, rules and regulations,” Edmund Piquero, CH2MHill senior environmental geologist said.

Around 80 families of West Tower condominium in Brgy. Bangkal were ordered to evacuate July last year upon orders of the Makati City government after confirming a leak in the FPIC’s petroleum pipeline.

Piquero said they will still conduct a human health risk assessment to determine if West Tower residents can live in the condominium without any risk to their health such as the level of benzene content in the air.

He said the remediation works in May include extracting the petroleum or “plume” and contaminated water at a faster phase while cleaning the affected soil underground.

The multi-phase remediation works is expected to be done underground and will ease the traffic in the Bangkal and Magallanes area.

“We are inclined towards using a multi-phase extraction system that creates a drawdown of the groundwater causing the convergence of the petroleum product and accelerating the recovery of the product,” he said.

The water and petroleum will be separated and water will be treated prior to discharge. The contaminants in the soil will be removed using a vacuum system.

CH2MHill is now recovering 3,000 liters of water and petroleum products a day coming from six product recovery wells in the vicinity of the West Tower condominium.

As of January 11, around 37,600 liters of petroleum products and contaminated water have been removed from the recovery wells, out of the total 1.8 million liters of petroleum product estimated in the area.

“We hope to accelerate the recovery of 5,000 to 6,000 liters per day in the next two weeks if we are allowed to install two additional product recovery wells closer to the West Tower,” Piquero said.

The official said that based on their tests, petroleum seepage covered an area of 7,000 square meters and settled underground at the South Super Highway and the adjancent service road.

The dissolved phase, which consists of both groundwater and petroleum products, is said to be within an area of another 8,000 square meters extending beyond the pure product plume area.

The affected area, therefore, total around 15,000 square meters (1.5 hectares), smaller in size than what FPIC expected.

“This is a positive development because it appears that the petroleum product has not affected a larger area than initial estimates,” Piquero said, adding that they were expecting the entire Bangkal to be contaminated with petroleum products.

He also said ground water in the Bangkal area was not contaminated by the seepage of the petroleum product.

Anthony Cole, CH2M Hill regional environmental management, said it will take around three to five years to complete the entire environmental remediation program.

“At least three to five years. It will never be totally zero but maybe we will reach a number that is acceptable. It’s impossible to go back zero (contamination),” Cole said. PNA

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