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#507721 - 09/24/15 05:56 AM The Sewage Situation In Placencia
Marty Online   happy

Earlier in our newscast, we showed you how the Harvest Caye Cruise Terminal is shaping up with all the ongoing construction work.

That opportunity to see it came up because the two conservation groups, the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, and the Southern Environmental Association, invited us out talk about issue very important to them. We’re referring to a centralized sewage system for the Placencia community, which had been planned but delayed for years. According to the experts, a recent environmental report says that the increase in microbes of the the waters of the peninsula’s lagoon is most likely caused by the community’s lack of proper sewage disposal. That could have devastating effects on the country’s coral reef systems and the shrimp industry taking place on the peninsula. So, today, Roberto Pott, of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative explained what’s happening while this centralized sewage system continues to be delayed:

Roberto Pott - Belize Coordinator, Healthy Reef Initiative

"I think it goes back to what we've been saying in the field; which is the increase in fleshy macro-algae across Belize and the region. We've seen that over the last 10 years or so, where we've gone up from about 10 percent fleshy macro-algae cover in the region to about 23 percent; and that’s almost a 10 percent increase. We're confident that’s related to nutrients coming in from the rivers as well from sewage management systems. One of the things that we did as a country; and we have to applaud fisheries department and the ministry, is protecting parrot fish back in 2009. But now we've come to one of the hard actions that we need to take; hard because it’s very expensive. We need to install a sewage treatment infrastructure for developing urban areas; especially tourism destinations. It's not only Placencia, we have Caye Caulker and San Pedro that continues to grow and so we need to be able to cope with that growth. Not only it’s a threat to industries, like the shrimp industry but it would have a direct impact on the health and the health of visitors that come to Belize if that starts getting out on windward side of Placencia. There is an urgent need for a sewage treatment plants in Placencia and the other destinations; Belize City as well. "

Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll dig deeper into the problem and show you just what is at stake due to the increase of these macro-algae. We also hope to have a response from the Belize Water Services Limited on why this centralized sewage system for Placencia has apparently stalled.

Channel 7

#507755 - 09/25/15 05:42 AM Re: The Sewage Situation In Placencia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Placencia Lagoon, Under Sustained Sewage Pressure

Last night, we showed you small excerpt into our coverage of a developing situation on the Placencia Peninsula. It involves what happens when residents and visitors flush their toilets.

The conservationists say that there is strong evidence to suggest that the human waste is slowly polluting the lagoon. We went down to Placencia with our friends in the conservation community to examine the situation for ourselves. Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
The Placencia Peninsula... It's one of those areas in the country which is experiencing rapid expansion in the number of residents, and new developments.

For Placencia Village itself, this community, like the other tourism destinations, is also expanding its tourism business to try to attract as many visitors as possible.

But, with all that expansion, come corresponding growing pains, one of them being the concern of just too many houses, hotels, resorts, restaurants and businesses, all clamoring for limited space on the peninsula. The peninsula also has the gift and curse of being surrounded by a lagoon.

And that's why conservationists believe that the traditional septic tank systems, native to inland communities, is a slowly-timed environmental hazard waiting to happen.

Roberto Pott - Country Manager, Healthy Reefs For Health People Initiative
"We've seen that over the last 10 years or so, where we've gone up from about 10 percent fleshy macro-algae cover in the region to about 23 percent; and that's almost a 10 percent increase. We're confident that's related to nutrients coming in from the rivers as well from sewage management systems. The fleshy macro-algae serves as an indicator that we are already seeing a lot of the nutrients coming on and how that impacts on the environment is that it allows or provide more nutrients for the algae to grow faster and grow more and continues to cover coral areas that would have been able to maybe get recolonized by corals that were reduced back in the early 2000s, late 1990s when we had huge areas of bleaching followed up by hurricanes, the way Placencia did in 2000 by Hurricane Iris that devastated this community. The community has rebounded but the coral has been slow. Because it's now competing with the algae for space. And so that's the impact that we saw and that brings our attention to where the source of that nutrients is and we believe and we are fairly confident that its coming out from septic tanks which is the predominant way of handling sewage on the islands as well as on the main lands."

Linda Thorton - Representatives, Shrimp Growers Association
"What I see that I am concerned about is that I understand they do have some new laws in place that new developments have to have their own self-contained waste water treatment. But I see many of the other small people that are buying older homes and maybe smaller resorts in the village and are refurbishing or upgrading them so they can sell them for more money, but they are putting more and more homes and rooms and sewage systems in the forms of septic tanks on very small places of land and I think there has to be more regulation. It just seems that maybe a piece of land that originally belong to a Placencia family that originally had two or three small homes on it, how it has ten cabanas and each cabana have a septic tank and we know that tourists use a lot more water than we do."

But, that can be avoided, if an integrated sewage system is built to dispose of the village's waste away from the Lagoon. That waste water can be carefully extracted and treated further inland, thereby reducing and removing the danger.

Roberto Pott - Country Manager, Healthy Reefs For Health People Initiative
"Belize City is one of the few that has a sewage treatment or remediation ponds. San Pedro has one. From the last statistics we got, there are only 50% of the households connected to that sewer system. So there are a range of issues around handling or sewage in these urban and developing areas."

The problem is one such system was proposed and even announced - back in 2011. 4 years later, construction has not started. The project faced one serious challenge: the Shrimp Farmers would have been negatively affected.

Linda Thorton - Representatives, Shrimp Growers Association
"When they were talking about the waste water treatment which we believe is needed. The one problem we had was the remediation ponds, were going to be on the back side, where the discharge of that would go directly into our intakes for our shrimp farms and even though it would reduce the sewage, it's taken all the sewage from a large area and concentrated it in one small area. So even if was say 100,000 gallons and it was cleaned up by 95,000 gallons, 5,000 gallons of waste would still be coming directly in our ponds and it would basically shut down our industry. So we understand the need for it and we want to encourage it, but we want to have it designed where it will benefit everyone and hurt the other industries."

For those concerned individuals, they are hoping that the authorities haven't forgotten what's at stake. There is the island's Tourism Industry, and its Shrimp Farming operations, which earned over a hundred million dollars last year for Belize. These two important operations continue to hang in the balance.

Linda Thorton - Representatives, Shrimp Growers Association
"We have not met engineers from BWSL. When they were considering in putting in the waste water treatment facility in this area and they showed us microbiological tests of the area and its very scary, because lots of the creeks and the back of the lagoon which do not get the water exchange from a tidal influence are very high in certain levels and even though maybe the discharged around the peninsula is more in the front, but the sea water is diluting it, moving it out. So we are extracting water from the lagoon that are going into our ponds and the higher this level gets, the more we are at risks that it would show up into the tissues of the animals and when the shrimp are process, the laboratory at the processing facilities will tests for the this. If they are at a certain level we would not be able to sell it. We would have to throw it away. Now this is an industry in this area that we employed over 1,200 people, in the Stann Creek/Toledo area. In 2014, we produced over 17 million pounds of shrimp and that brought in about 100 million Belize dollars. So it's a very significant impact."

Roberto Pott - Country Manager, Healthy Reefs For Health People Initiative
"Some of the information comes out of a Halcrow report in 2012 that asses the water quality in the lagoon around Placencia, which justify the need for a sewage management plant and what it was already showing is that we have high E.coli and it's not only a threat to industries like the shrimp farms, but it would a direct impact on health and the health of visitors that come to Belize. If that starts getting out on the windward side of Placencia, and so there is an urgent need for sewage treatment plants in Placencia and the other destinations - Belize City as well. Worst case scenario is that we would lose our reef and that would be hard to recover from."

Sewage Solution Not That Simple

So, what happened with that integrated sewer system that the Belize Water Services and the Government of Belize announced in 2011? Has it been stalled, or has it been scrapped? Well, the company's representative met with us for an intensive sit-down interview, where they explained that the project is going to happen, it's just a matter of when. For context, they told us about what has been happening since 2011:

Sanjay Keshwani - Technical Services Manager, BWSL
"2011, the government of Belize and I think we had signed the contract for this project. 2011, after that the feasibility study was done. The Halcrow was hired as a consultant following the IDB policy and procedures. Feasibility study was done July 2012 and then again following the IDB policy and procedures, we hired HILCO as a detailed design consultant. In 2013, HILCO was hired by September 2013. The procedures have taken long. It takes about 6 months' time to hire an international consultant. The first effort was failure. So that's why from 2012 to 2013. After HILCO came on board in 2014, they did preliminary studies, preliminary design, estimate and so forth. They were designing for the location across Seine Bight. The first meeting with the Shrimp Farm Growers Association where they...they were polite but they were very forceful and objecting the location. Since then the project is in this mode. So we were trying to work with them, how we can agree on something. Finally it was decided that we need to do this study to scientifically prove that this particular location is better for every single industry in that region. So that's where we are today."

So, as you heard, since the shrimp farmers disagreed with the location that this system would be placed, BWS went back to the drawing board. They've since been planning a feasibility assessment called the Nutrient Fate and Transport Study. That will tell them what happens to the nutrients generated from human waste, the corresponding fecal bacteria, and other chemical parameters in the lagoon. Basically, they want to find out exactly what happens when treated water is placed into the lagoon, and what effect it will have. That takes one and a half months to complete, and then they move on to other studies. All the while, the lagoon remains polluted with the currently inefficient septic sewage system currently being used by residents and hoteliers on the peninsula. So, theoretically, how long with it take before this project actually becomes a reality? That's what we asked:

Frederick Sandiford - Resident Consultant Engineer, BWSL
"The plan is to move on to the detail design once the Nutrient Fate and Transport Study is completed. After the detail design then it will be construction."

Daniel Ortiz
"Any ideas as to a possible or what is the expected time it will take to reach the construction and how long will construction take? So I'm trying to get a holistic picture of ok, we are opening the sewage system today. What's that day going to be... possibly?"

Frederick Sandiford - Resident Consultant Engineer, BWSL
"Given that funded is available, we the Nutrient Fate and Transport Study possibly starting early next year, the 1st quarter. That will take a year and a half. So that will take us to the latter part of 2017. After Nutrient Fate and Transport Study is completed, we will go to the detail design. That will take approximately 1 year. That will take us to the latter part of 2018. Construction will generally between 1 to 2 years. So that will take us to 2020 and that will complete system. That is given. Funded is available."

Daniel Ortiz
"...Everything works out as is to be planned."

Frederick Sandiford - Resident Consultant Engineer, BWSL

Daniel Ortiz
"So are we to be worried in that 5 year period, concern that the lagoon is being slowly polluted by the nutrients from the septic sewage system that is currently being employed by residence and the hotelier industry in that area?"

Frederick Sandiford - Resident Consultant Engineer, BWSL
"I can't definitively say that but I am sure that some level of pollution of the marine environment is presently being had."

The technical personnel tell us that it often costs an average of 10x as much to provide sewage services for a community as it is to provide water for that same community.

So, what about the rest of the country and the other coastal community? Well, tune in tomorrow, when you'll hear the BWS personnel explain in detail how the country just cannot afford a proper sewage system - and the effect that it is having on the coastline.

Channel 7

#507791 - 09/26/15 06:05 AM Re: The Sewage Situation In Placencia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Is Reserving The Key To Preserving Placencia Lagoon?

So, as you've seen the Placencia lagoon is under sustained pressure, either from rapid development expansion, or from the slow pollution of the community's inefficient sewage system. That and other reasons are why the Southern Environment Association is hoping that the Government will declare the Placencia Lagoon a protected area. The Executive Director told us more:

Nicole Auil Gomez, Executive Director, SEA
"The Placencia peninsula is within an ecological hotspot. It's within very close range of the reef. There are patch reefs off of the lagoon itself and westward of the peninsula is the Placencia lagoon which is a critical fish nursery habitat. It's an important mangrove habitat, it has high importance value for manatees, and it would be classified as the most important sites for manatees in Belize. The Placencia lagoon has been a gap in the protected area system nationally. It has been identified by several individuals in publications and the national rationalization report that comprehensively looked at the protected area system and identified it as a gap. So the environmental association is working with the friends of Placencia lagoon through the support of the world wildlife fund. To get Placencia lagoon declared a wildlife sanctuary under the new national protected area systems bill or act that will be finalized shortly. We hope to see the process move forward that we can get that site declared a protected area."

SEA is about to finalize a draft proposal which they will submit to the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development to consideration. It has taken the conservation community on the Placencia several months and lot of work to arrive at this point.

Channel 7

#507865 - 09/29/15 05:59 AM Re: The Sewage Situation In Placencia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Former Area Rep Says BWSL Should Seek Solution For Sewage, Swiftly

Since last week Wednesday, we've been telling you about the sewage problem on the Placencia peninsula. There has been a plan for an integrated sewage system in that area for almost 2 decades because the prevailing scientific wisdom is that in coastal communities, septic tanks are inefficient in keeping the nutrients generated from human waste from escaping, and it seeps into the Lagoon. That slowly poisons the marine environment, and for an area of the country which depends heavily on tourism and shrimp farming, that's a very great risk.

One person who has been intimately involved in how this integrated sewage system idea solidified is former UDP Minister and three time Area Representative for Stann Creek West, Melvin Hulse. Today he outlined in detail his role in the process that has been protracted and long delayed, much to the frustration of the communities living on the peninsula.

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative for Stann Creek West
"Back in 2008, we started to aggressively pursue, because out of the blue, you would never believe a place could have started to grow and tourism took off. So we brought in Herman Longsworth. He was the chairman of the BWS board then, came into Placencia and we have several meetings with him - Seine Bight Village Council, Placencia Water Board and Seine Bight Water Board - many meetings. We were looking to tender it out so that we could get the best job because it is a big job - from the point to Riversdale. Herman said that the most qualified people really in this country would be BWS. Because remember WASA was the first ones to start a sewage system in Belize, so he was given the design. The organization did a bill of quantities which is how many pipes, how long, how much it would cost - everything. So we now had it finalized to what it would cost."

Daniel Ortiz
"What was that number at that time?"

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative for Stann Creek West
"About 20 - 30 million. BWS was working it out. Then we managed to secure funds. Funds came from many sources. There is one that is a revolving fund. One of the organization said yes that they could help us with 10 million and when it is done, you pay back, so that money could be used in assisting somewhere else and that is the genesis of all of this; we had meeting with the financial secretary and all that. It was agreed. I heard all of the money was approved by the US and BWS said look here, because they figure they would get a grant. So they were just charging to do the job. Placencia Water Board is extremely successful. They built their office there next to the tank. BWS initiated the conversation around 2012, saying that if they would have to pay it back, that sewage doesn't pay. Which we know. That is a heavy dead money. We will need the income from the water systems. The water systems was done independently; Placencia ran their water system successfully. Seine Bight has their own water board and was running because they had their own tank and everything."

"That went on to about 2012. BWS agreed to do it with the condition that the revenue from the water goes to them."

Daniel Ortiz
"So you are saying that these independent water boards was collecting monies and it was used in the community."

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative for Stann Creek West
"It was used in the community for all the expansion and everything."

Daniel Ortiz
"And so they are asking for that revenue to go to them."

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative for Stann Creek West
"It is about 100-200 plus thousands a year. It's a lot of money. With all the up and down, eventually the money was given to BWS. Nearly 30 million dollars you know."

So, as you heard, Hulse, like the environmentalists, and the technical personnel at BWS, agree that there is urgent need for this integrated system, and that it is expensive. What he doesn't agree with the water services company about is the timeline of possibly another 5 years, and the uncertainty that all the funding is not present to start building this facility immediately. Here's how he explained that to us this morning:

Daniel Ortiz
"You said they have been paid for the project already. They have grants..."

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative for Stann Creek West
"Part of it is grant; government has been part of it, the US has been part of it, economic development was part of it - everybody was onboard because everybody acknowledge that it is urgent to put in a sewage system. The US and IDB and everybody. These people came in and were a part of these meetings you know. Everybody put in their pound to try and achieve this objective at the expense Placencia not getting the revenue they use to get - they sacrifice that along with Seine Bight and now BWS is saying maybe another 5 years. Well we've gone quite a few years and I really had a problem."

Daniel Ortiz
"What if BWS' position is that with all of these different funding agencies and capital sources, these different sources of finance, they still don't have enough money to afford this integrated sewage system. Would that be a position you would accept or you would reject?"

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative for Stann Creek West
"I would reject it because it was not the people in the peninsula who did the bill of quantities you know. I recognized and appreciate the skills and the ability of those people at BWS. It took a couple of months to do it. When that bill of quantities was finish, the chairman of the board came back to Placencia and met with them and say okay this is the bill of quantity. This is how much it will cost."

"Justify to us that your bill of quantities is flawed. Justify to us that two years of accumulated revenue that you've been collecting is not sufficient? Government will step in and do their addition. It's not like they (BWS) found any money. They have never found a dollar for the sewage system. Now all of a sudden we have to locate the source and maybe 5 year from now. Man we can't."

As we told you, BWS will commence a nutrient fate and transport study which will take 1 and a half years to complete. They are trying to ensure that they can scientifically prove that wherever they place the facility, it will not negatively affect the environment, or the shrimp farmers who lobbied for them to choose another location.

Channel 7


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