Apr 072013
 

FAQs

(Frequently Asked Questions)

About the Toxic Contamination Found at Clark and Subic

A Brief Primer

by People’s Task Force on Bases Clean-up (PTFBC)

as of July 1999

IS THERE REALLY CONTAMINATION FOUND AT CLARK AIR BASE AND SUBIC NAVAL BASE?

Yes, there is a huge body of evidence of contamination at the former US military bases. Reports from the US General Accounting Office, US Department of Defense, the World Health Organization, and recent environment baseline surveys conducted by US firms at the former bases at the request of the Philippine government confirm serious contamination at over 30 sites at both Clark and Subic bases.

WHAT CONTAMINANTS WERE FOUND AT CLARK AIR BASE?

According to the environmental baseline study that was conducted by the US firm Weston International at Clark Air base at the request of the Philippine government, a total of 21 of the 24 locations sampled for water had at least one pollutant that exceeded drinking water standards. Some of these were Mercury, Nitrate, Coliform Bacteria, Dieldrin, Lead and several different kinds of solvents including Benzene and Toluene.

The Weston study identified soil contamination in 12 of the 14 sites that it investigated. The following pollutants which exceeded standards for soil ingestion were found: Aldrin, Dieldrin, Petroleum hydrocarbons, Lead, Polychlorinated Hydrocarbons(PCBs), Lindane, Hexachlorobenzene.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF MERCURY?

According to the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS), 1985-1986, mercury has been known to cause birth defects such as severe cerebral palsy, mental retardation, weakness, visual loss, delayed development, spontaneous abortions, and neurological effects. In general, mercury (Hg) is a central nervous system depressant and has mental effects.

There is a potential for health impacts to subsistence fisherfolk from the accumulation of toxics in fish and other marine life residing in Subic Bay waters. Mercury was detected in some of the sediments of Subic Bay. Mercury bioaccumulates in fish, which means that a fish will collect all the mercury in the fish that it ate, and so on. Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause irreversible brain damage to infants.  In some areas of the United States where mercury contamination has been detected, women childbearing age and children are recommended to take minimum consumption of fish.

IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION FROM THESE CONTAMINANTS?

Yes, the Weston report raised concern of groundwater contamination around most of these 14 sites and recommended that the soil and groundwater of 75% of these sites be further investigated to fully know the extent of contamination.

For instance, in the former Motor Pool, the Weston said, “It appears that the petroleum contamination in the Motor Pool may have moved vertically down the soil column, resulting in possible groundwater contamination. About the former Defense Reutilization Marketing Office storage area, it stated, “While detected contaminants were few, there is concern that the large area of the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO) could not be adequately characterized using a test put approach.” There is a “high potential” for contaminants such as solvents, fuel products, PCBs, pesticides, heavy metals and radioactive materials, to migrate down into the groundwater.

HOW ABOUT THE FORMER SUBIC NAVAL BASE, WHAT STUDIES HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED THERE?

In 1996, the Philippine government, thru the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority commissioned the American-based firm Woodward Clyde International to conduct an environmental baseline study. It was funded by a $650,000 loan from the World Bank.

Although the study has been severely criticized by US experts and scientists with experience in military restoration, according to a technical review of the Woodward Clyde study by American firm Clearwater Revival Company, “the results of the sampling performed during the EBS indicate that existing environmental conditions within the Freeport Zone present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and environment.”

HOW ABOUT UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE?

There is a probability of unexploded ordnance such as bombs, shells and ammunition being present in the former explosives disposal/burning area and in the former live firing training ranges such as Crow Valley Firing Range. Already, there have been several deaths and injuries as a result of unexploded ordnance in the Subic area. A specialist survey and clean-up program is recommended before these areas are developed.

HOW ABOUT RADIOACTIVITY?

Although no investigation of radioactivity was conducted as part of the Woodward-Clyde study, radioactive materials have been noted to be handled in the Freeport Zone at Subic. Radioactive material can affect the body in many ways. It has been known to cause cancer, leukemia, cancers of the breast, lung, esophagus, stomach, and urinary organs.  Radiation can also cause genetic mutations and chromosomal abnormalities.  The Woodward Clyde study recommended that a general radioactive scan be conducted by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER HOTSPOTS ON THE BASE?

Yes, the former Subic landfill. During his visit to Subic, American soil scientist Dr. Paul Bloom was alarmed by the Subic landfill because it was not properly capped, as it should have been when the American military left the military facility. He noted that this puts the workers engaged in construction in the vicinity at risk, being potentially exposed to the byproducts of organics, solvents, paint thinners , and metals, which were dumped into the landfill. Development in nearby areas “could be affected by the landfill leachate, which could seep into buildings.” The Woodward-Clyde estimated a cost of $3.9-6.6 million to remediate the landfill alone.

WHAT ARE THE KNOWN CONTAMINATION SITES AT CLARK AIR BASE?

There are 27 total sites.

Based on the Weston Environmental Baseline Study, these are:
  1. Mabalacat landfill

  2. Fire Training Area

  3. Power Plant

  4. Corrosion Control Areas

  5. Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office

  6. Storage Yard Area

  7. Jet Engine Test Cell

  8. Civil Engineering Entomology

  9. California Bus Line Motor Pool

  10. Motor Pool

  11. Fuel System Repair Shop

  12. Philippine Area Exchange Motor Pool

  13. Wagner Aviation Transformer Site

  14. Operational Well 1 in CABCOM Evacuation Center

  15. Operational Well 2 in CABCOM

  16. Operational Well 3 in CABCOM

  17. Operational Wells near former landfills (CDC-2, 8,9)

  18. Operational Back-up Wells Upgradient (Near Golf Course and Housing CDC-16, 17)

  19. Operational Well Downgradient to the Golf Course (CDC-23)

  20. Operational Well near the former DRMO (CDC-4)

  21. Well Downgradient to the former DRMO (CDC-12)

  22. Operational Well near the former DRMO (CDC-4)

Based on the US Air Force Environmental Review of the Drawdown Activities at Clark Air Base, Rep. of the Philippines:

   23.  Mechanical Room, Bldg. 7509

   24.  Supply Storage yard Adjacent to the DRMO
25. Clark-Subic POL pipeline
26. Philippine Rock Products Compound, Bldg. 18
27. Asbestos Landfill

WHAT ARE THE KNOWN CONTAMINATION SITES AT SUBIC NAVAL FACILITY?

There are 19 sites, according to the Woodward-Clyde Environmental Baseline Study:

  1. Subic Landfill

  2. Osir Basin Old Landfill

  3. Navy Exchange Taxi Compound

  4. Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO) Yard/Deltic Yard

  5. PWC Vehicle Maintenance Yard

  6. Cubi Hospital Incinerator

  7. Fire Fighting Training Area

  8. Former Demilitarization Facility/NAVMAG

  9. SRF Causeway

  10. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Area/NAVMAG

  11. Sanitary Landfill

  12. Subic Power Plant (Bldg. 1800)

  13. Fleet Mooring/Sandblasting Yard

  14. Foundry Shop, Building 30

  15. Naval Supply Depot Tank Farm, area around UST structure No. 1758

  16. Wood Preservation and Treatment Facility, Bldg. 2259/NAVMAG

  17. Fuel Farm Area in Cubi Point Naval Air Station

  18. Washrack Holding Tanks, Structure No. 8415 and 8416

  19. Cubi Power Plant

 

The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002

 

 

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