Float­ing in it

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

It's about six years ago that I first came across a re­port pre­pared by UNEP-CEP/RCU clum­sily named ‘Re­gional Sec­toral Over­view of Wastew­a­ter Man­age­ment in the Wider Caribbean Re­gion. Si­t­u­a­tional Anal­y­sis'. It's al­ways fun, but sel­dom en­cour­ag­ing, to read th­ese re­ports years af­ter their pub­li­ca­tion to dis­cover what tremen­dous progress has been made – to re­sort to Trumpian lan­guage. But al­low me to quote from the re­port so that you can judge for your­selves.

“In Saint Lu­cia, wastew­a­ter treat­ment is inad­e­quate. There is an ab­sence of wastew­a­ter man­age­ment in most com­mu­ni­ties. Cas­tries is served only with a wastew­a­ter col­lec­tion sys­tem which dis­charges raw sewage into the marine en­vi­ron­ment via a near shore out­fall." So can we now pre­sume that the Cas­tries har­bour is no longer a cesspool? Tremen­dous!

“The wa­ter and sew­er­age com­pany has the man­date to pro­vide ser­vices is­land-wide but does not have the fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity." So now, seven years later, WASCO has made se­ri­ous at­tempts to pro­vide safe and san­i­tary sew­er­age col­lec­tion fa­cil­i­ties is­land-wide. Fan­tas­tic!

“In most parts of the is­land, in­dus­trial wastew­a­ter is ei­ther par­tially treated and dis­charged into a nat­u­ral wa­ter course or un­treated and dis­charged into open drains. This pol­lu­tion ends up on the coast, of­ten near vil­lages and towns, caus­ing se­vere en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems." Ab­so­lutely amaz­ing! So now we can safely swim in the sea!

“The only wastew­a­ter treat­ment is ap­plied to wastew­a­ter from parts of Gros Islet, for which the Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Com­pany em­ployed an Ad­vanced In­te­grated Pond Sys­tem. With this sys­tem the sewage goes through a screen be­fore go­ing through four la­goons, of which the first two are equipped with sur­face aer­a­tors. The ef­flu­ent then flows into Rod­ney Bay via a stream and man­grove. This sys­tem is used by 13.2% of the coun­try's pop­u­la­tion." Un­be­liev­ably great! So now tourists in the wa­ter bun­ga­lows at San­dals Grande will no longer watch lit­tle turds float by be­neath their glass floors.

57% of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Vieux Fort had ac­cess to wa­ter clos­ets, 12% had sep­tic tanks, and 2% had con­nec­tion to a sewage treat­ment plant, while 39% used pit la­trines and 4% were as­so­ci­ated with in­dis­crim­i­nate defe­ca­tion. Tremen­dous! In­dis­crim­i­nate defe­ca­tion, won­der­ful!

The rest of the is­land is served with small pack­age plants, sep­tic tanks, out­houses and other un­de­fined lo­cal sys­tems. Al­though the tech­nol­ogy used in sep­tic tanks is some­times not ap­pro­pri­ate for cer­tain lo­ca­tions, it is the dis­posal and treat­ment method that is pro­moted. Make Saint Lu­cia great again!

Poor sewage treat­ment and dis­posal re­sults in high bac­te­rial lev­els in some coastal ar­eas and af­fects the health of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion and the en­vi­ron­ment. Chil­dren have been af­fected by par­a­sitic worms called Helminthes, not to con­fused with Trump's TicTac mints used be­fore grop­ing.

In the Vieux Fort area, 46% of the sewage dis­posal sys­tems were within 100m of a nat­u­ral wa­ter­course; 23% were within 100m of the high wa­ter mark; 23% in­di­cated that their sys­tems had over­flowed in the past due to mal­func­tions; and 8% fre­quently mal­func­tioned and dis­charged raw sewage in the marine en­vi­ron­ment. Many of th­ese sys­tems suf­fer from il­le­gal con­nec­tions.

The Na­tional Wa­ter Pol­icy for Saint Lu­cia out­lines the in­ten­tion of the govern­ment to un­der­take the ex­pan­sion of the sew­er­age net­work in ar­eas of high pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties; to in­ves­ti­gate the fea­si­bil­ity of wastew­a­ter re­use; and to strengthen the ca­pac­ity of mon­i­tor­ing and reg­u­la­tory agen­cies. How much of this did Kenny & Co's un­sung he­roes man­age to achieve be­tween 2011 and 2016?

Cur­rently, the Govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia, along with the Saint Lu­cia Bu­reau of Stan­dards, is in the process of de­vel­op­ing Recre­ational Wa­ter Qual­ity Stan­dards, the de­fined pa­ram­e­ters and lim­its for coastal and river­ine wa­ters. And stan­dards for fly­ing pigs, no doubt!

But se­ri­ously, WASCO tells us wa­ter is life, but if that life also com­prises el­e­ments harm­ful to life, then we are in a very dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. Wa­ter does not come free of charge. We have to re­spect WASCO's at­tempts to pro­vide us with wa­ter, but we must also press the au­thor­i­ties to im­prove our ways of deal­ing with sew­er­age un­less we want to end up up to our necks in ef­flu­ent.

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