Marilao Industrial Waste Contamination

Marilao, Philippines
Southeast Asia,
Tannery Waste, Solid Waste, Sewage, Pesticides, Hexavalent Chromium, Heavy Metals
Tannery Operations, Pharmaceuticals, Lead Smelting, Battery Recycling
Potentially affected people:

The problem

Significant industrial waste is haphazardly dumped into the Meycauayan River, a source of domestic and agricultural water for 250,000 people living in and around Manila. Substantial contamination comes from small scale lead recycling facilities along the river at Marilao, and from the many tanneries that dump untreated hexavalent chromium into the river. This river also feeds directly into the Manila Bay, and its effluents contaminate shellfish in commercial fishing areas.

Current Activity

Blacksmith is currently creating a coordinating body to oversee the control and clean up of this river. This body will include senior representatives of the Philippines federal government, the Asian Development Bank, the local municipality, industry representatives and local community groups. They will together design and implement remediation efforts over the next several years.


The Marilao, Meycauyan and Obando river system is home to hundreds of thousands of people and numerous industries, most of which pump their wastewater untreated into the river. Carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, lead, and human sewage are just a few components of this toxic stew, which the local population relies on as a source of domestic and agricultural water. With support from Blacksmith Institute, a multi-stakeholder group with representatives from local NGOs, government, academia, and industry has been formed to scope the extent of pollution, and design of suitable responses is well under way.