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, out-houses 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.