Sunday, December 1, 2013

Storms, flooding can unleash a toxic soup

Desmond Brown in IPS News: It’s a dirty, smelly business, but wastewater is gaining prominence across the Caribbean as countries from Jamaica in the west to Guyana in the south increasingly recognise its effects on the environment and the importance of improving its management.

Coordinator of the Guyana Wastewater Revolving Fund Marlon Daniels told IPS that with the advent of climate change, protecting the environment has become more of a challenge for countries of the region. He explained that climate change has resulted in unusual weather patterns, including more rainfall and flash flooding, and these have caused an increase in sewerage entering the sea.

“One of the effects of improving access to water, as required under Goal 7 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, is that more people instead of using a pit latrine now use a flush toilet, so they have an on-site treatment in the form of a septic tank,” Daniels said.

“When you have a huge storm or heavy rain, you have a toxic soup. There is refuse from septic tanks, which is not as dirty as raw sewerage but it’s still rich in nutrients and pathogens. All of that wastewater ends up in the environment as floodwater and you have populations being exposed to that.”

Dr. Donna-May Sakura-Lemessy, deputy director at the Trinidad-based Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), says while the Caribbean benefits tremendously from the tourism industry – last year visitors spent an estimated 26 billion dollars – tourism-dependent economies of small island Caribbean states suffer the most from untreated wastewater with the destruction of reefs and the pollution of beaches....

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