• New Water Quality Guidelines

    Sunstar Philippines, June 23, 2016

    by: Rox Peña


    New water quality guidelines

    12 years after the passage of RA 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, new water quality guidelines and effluent standards are finally released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The old guidelines contained in DENR DAO-34 and 35 series of 1990 are now superseded.

    The new set of guidelines contained in DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2016-08, is in compliance with section 19e and 19f of RA 9275. Section 19e says that the DENR shall enforce, review and revise within 12 months from the effectivity of the Clean Water Act, water quality guidelines after due consultation with the concerned stakeholder sectors. The new guidelines however came eleven years late. The long delay, I presumed, was due to the numerous public consultations that were conducted to ensure that all concerns are addressed.

    Under the new DAO, water quality guidelines are set for each type of water body. For instance, a river classified as Class A, or a public water supply class II, must have a BOD of 3 mg/L and a dissolved oxygen level of 5mg/L. A swimming and bathing water body like the Manila Bay which falls under SB category should have a fecal coliform level of 100 MPN/100ml only. Fecal coliform are found in the intestines and feces of people and animals. The presence of fecal coliform in water often indicates recent fecal contamination. Note that that current fecal coliform level of Manila Bay exceeds standards.

    For effluent standards (treated wastewater discharge into bodies of water), there is major change in policy. Under the old guidelines in DAO 35, there are general standards for all type of effluent. In the new guidelines, significant effluent quality parameters for each industry are specified. They are based on the most probable pollutant that a type of industry will discharge into the environment.

    For instance, sugar mills will be monitored for temperature, pH, BOD, TSS and Nitrate. Textile mills will have host of parameters which includes color, temperature, BOD, COD, Chromium, Phenol and Phenolic substances, oil and grease, surfactants, Ammonia, Copper, and Trichloroethylene. Hotels, motels, resorts, dormitories and similar establishments will be monitored for BOD, Fecal Coliform, Ammonia, Nitrate, Phospate, oil and grease and surfactants. These significant parameters however can still be modified through an appeal to the DENR Secretary. The EMB will determine if such request is valid.

    What if the said establishments are not compliant with the new set of guidelines? Don't worry, the Clean Water Act provides for a grace period. Section 19f says, "That when new and more stringent standards are set in accordance with this section, the Department may establish a grace period with a maximum of five (5) years: Provided, finally, That such grace period shall be limited to the moratorium on the issuance of cease and desist and/or closure order against the industry's operations except in the event such operation poses serious and grave threat to the environment, or the industry fails to institute retooling, upgrading or establishing an environmental management system (EMS)."

    Additionally, DAO 2016-08 says the establishment shall submit a Compliance Plan and regular updates on the implementation of such plan to the DENR. The Pollution Control Officers of every company should get a copy of the new DAO.