SVG to examine better, safer ways to dispose of wastewater
December 6, 2013
SVG to examine better, safer ways to dispose of wastewater

While St Vincent and the Grenadines receives high marks for providing 95 per cent piped water coverage, only one per cent of the country’s wastewater is being treated.{{more}}

This statistic was revealed at a recent media workshop in Guyana, which was hosted by the Global Environment Facility’s Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (GEF CReW).

Under the GEF CReW project, SVG is hoping to rectify that statistic.

Danville Toney, a senior environmental health officer in the Environmental Management Department of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, explained to SEARCHLIGHT how wastewater is handled in this country.

“Generally in St Vincent and the Grenadines, wastewater in the home is taken care of by septic tanks, soakaway systems. It is only in capital Kingstown that we have a communal or public system that is run by the Central Water and Sewerage Authority, but in terms of actual treatment of this wastewater, very little is done. It’s almost like collection and disposal and the effluent are actually pumped out to sea,” he said.

“Dilution is the solution to pollution”.

This, Toney said, is the basic philosophy on which treatment of wastewater is built, in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The senior environmental health officer, who is also the country’s focal point for the GEF CReW project, noted that there is “need for improvement” as it relates to wastewater management.

When SEARCHLIGHT spoke with GEF CReW project coordinator, Denise Forrest, she revealed that in a recent trip to SVG, possibilities for better wastewater management were discussed with several stakeholders in the country.

Besides policies and legal issues, Forrest noted that the impact of untreated wastewater was a very important topic of discussion.

“We have to recognize that there are certain parts of the country, certain rural areas where the current method of treating waste, that is septic tanks and soakaways, would be adequate given the population densities. The concern in the country, rests with the urban, [sub] urban areas where you have your highest population and also visitors. So that deals with Kingstown, the Arnos Vale area and the south coast area and basically the data of one per cent is saying that more than what is being done now is required, which is something that is recognized,” she said.

If wastewater is not treated, the impacts can be detrimental.

The country’s focal point noted that “untreated wastewater can do immense damage to the environment.

“It can have impact on our fisheries sector…the fish that we eat can become contaminated at some point,” Toney explained. “If we do not dispose of our wastewater properly, we can also be encouraging things like rodents and other vermin…these in turn can transmit diseases”.

On the flip side, “our environment will be happy” if persons administer proper treatment to wastewater.

In fact, a better environment is the root of all benefits, as there will be a cleaner space to live in, with thriving fisheries sector and a reduce in the likelihood of contracting diseases such as cholera.

Although a decision has not yet been made as to how the problem can be handled, there are several possibilities to choose from.

“One of the things that will drive what the country decides to do it’s looking at regulations now, it has some standards and the discharge standards will help to determine what technological solutions you put in place. And we’re also hoping that coming into the technological solutions, will be what we’re trying to do…which is integrated urban wastewater management which looks at all the inputs into the water and wastewater and decides what is best in terms of a treatment approach,” Forrest said.

“There is going to be the need to treat wastewater particularly in urban centres. The Kingstown facility is really a pumping station. There is minimal treatment, some solids are removed but…it’s just gathered at the station and pumped into the marine environment so there’s a need now to decide what do we put there for treatment and the technologies have so developed that even within the footprint of the current space…of Kingstown, something can be done to improve the discharge.

Toney gave assurances that the Ministry is already looking into strategies to pinpoint some of the best practices for treating wastewater and how they can be applied in SVG.

“As Vincentians, we must embrace projects like these. Wastewater could cause detrimental effects to our health…and managing our wastewater can only be good for us. If we do well for our environment, it will in turn do well for us,” he said.

Stakeholders of this project include the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, the Central Water and Sewage Authority, the Forestry Divison and the Bureau of Standards.