Reeking Creek: San Cristobal creek causes concern as health risks grow

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Photo by DENR Calabarzon

Deedee often goes to the community market in Barangay San Cristobal to buy produce for the week. On her way home, her mouth waters upon smelling the appetizing cooked food wafting beyond her subdivision’s gates. However, her appetite is ruined by the stench of the creek nearby. Not only was her appetite ruined,  but her health could potentially be at risk as well.

Health risks such as cholera and typhoid fever are often borne of polluted creeks. The same health risks loom over the Milenyo settlement area of Barangay San Cristobal, Calamba City as solid waste and nutrient pollution in the nearby creek have caused concerns, especially during the pandemic.

“When I go near the bridge above the creek, the water smells really bad, it smells like garbage. But we have to get used to it, because we live near it,” said Deedee, not her real name.

However, according to Deedee, there’s only little the barangay can do in terms of cleaning.

Polluted Connections

San Cristobal’s creek winds near the most populated parts of the barangay, such as the intersection road, the Milenyo settlement, the entrance to a subdivision and San Cristobal Elementary School. This concerns the people in the village, as improper waste disposal can cause serious impacts on human health.

Many residents have complained about the smell, ruining their appetites due to the stench of the creek.

“When we come near the creek, I can’t help but cover my nose with my hand or a handkerchief, because it smells very bad, especially when the waters rise,” Buddy, not his real name.

Not only is there the stench of the creek that affects the people, the environment is also affected, from land, water, and air.

On Air

Recently, plastics and trash were swept as the water levels rose due to the heavy rainfall brought by the recent  typhoons Rolly and Ulysses in the third quarter of 2020. These were ultimately burned due to the lack of a space to dump all the awashed garbage.

Other residents have also complained about the horrid smell of the burning plastics from the creek. Dina Diesta, a resident of Barangay San Cristobal, said the locals set fire to the plastics fairly often, once every three days.

Burning of plastics emits gases such as methane, one of the so-called greenhouse gases, that get trapped in the ozone which causes greenhouse effect and contributes to global warming and climate change.

City Health Officer Adelino Labro said that Calambeños (local of Calamba), especially those with respiratory diseases, should wear masks while the air quality issues are being resolved.

According to a May 2018 report made by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Philippines ranked third with the most deaths due to air pollution, with over 45 deaths recorded per 100,000 individuals due to air pollution.

Furthermore, not only is the air affected, but the greens and the blues of the world as well.

Black is the New Green

Many kinds of solid waste have been spotted in the creek, with commonly just one time use packaging such as sachets and biscuit wrappers.

“In the creek, I saw plastics, napkins, food packaging, and some sort of animal waste that looked like it came from a dog,” Juchel Viray, a resident of Barangay San Cristobal, said.

According to the data of Calamba City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in 2010, an estimated amount of 200 tons of garbage is created by Calambeños, equivalent to the weight of 142 commonly use cars. 

In a research by the Department of Health, hazardous waste can cause severe effects such as behavioral abnormalities, cancer, genetic mutations, physical abnormalities, and birth defects. However, common cases may irritate the skin or eyes, make it difficult to breathe, cause headaches and nausea, or result in other types of illness.

Hazardous wastes can be found in factories and other industrial facilities.

The land is affected, but as well as the waters.

Black and Blue

The creek became a polluted body of water that posed posed health risks due to human activities and environmental neglect.

Pollution greatly affects the waters of the Philippines, as it contributes to killing sea creatures, such as fishes, crustaceans, and corals. Especially in Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, where pollution has resulted in fish kills which affected the livelihood of fisherfolks.

The San Cristobal Creek also has animals living in it too. According to Julie Manalo, a resident of the settlement area, when the creek’s tide rises, they spot fishes, turtles, and even snakes.

Pollution due to agricultural and industrial factories, and human activity is a notorious cause of fish kills. Plastic wastes can be ingested by the fish. Nutrient pollution, on the other hand, is produced by agricultural fertilizers which then promotes plant growth in the waters, and eventually causing fish kills due to the lack of oxygen in the water.

Diseases that can be caused by the pollution of water due to human activities, such as factories, improper waste segregation, and neglect to the environment are malaria, cholera and diarrhea, according to the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health.

Cholera is a disease caused by a bacteria that usually spreads through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and dehydration to the infected person. The said disease can be fatal within hours, even to previously healthy people, if it is left untreated.

Fortunately, modern sewage systems, water treatment, and other breakthroughs have helped to virtually eliminate cholera in industrialized countries. However, as the creek is very accessible from the Milenyo settlement of 30 households, it still poses a potential risk in the barangay.

Future Seems Bleak?

The people of Barangay San Cristobal have yet to see any improvements in the creek, either. Some have even complained about the smell of the creek. For some citizens the future of the creek seems bleak.

“It’s a bit bleak for me to see that creek being cleaned in the near future, as I have been living here for over a decade and I haven’t seen any improvements,” Buddy said.

“Not much has changed since I moved here on that creek, but I really hope that they clean the creek soon, there’s really a lot of plastic there,” said Deedee.*

This article was written and prepared by Lyndon James Diesta (Student-Journalist) and Nefren Sambalod (School Paper Adviser) from Calamba City Integrated Science School, Division of Calamba City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.

Featured photo from DENR Calabarzon.

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