JIS News

The National Water Commission (NWC) is working to restore its wastewater facility in the Poor Man’s Corner area of Yallahs, St. Thomas, which sustained extensive damage during Hurricanes Dennis and Emily last month.
In an interview with JIS News, Corporate Communications Manager at the NWC, Charles Buchanan disclosed that due to the torrential rains brought by Hurricane Dennis and to a lesser extent, Emily, the Yallahs River expanded, changed its course and took with it significant portions of land on the eastern side of the river, on which four wastewater ponds being operated by the NWC were situated.
Three of the ponds were washed away and as Mr. Buchanan explained, wastewater that normally goes to the pond site no longer goes through a “constructed” treatment process but instead goes through “some amount of natural treatment,” seeping through the sand and making its way gradually into the earth.
“As the wastewater that comes onto the site seeps through the sand, there is some amount of percolation and filtration, which is taking place as it flows through the soil,” Mr. Buchanan informed.
Normally, wastewater from homes goes to the pond site where it would go through the series of four ponds, one at a time. By the time it has come through the final pond, it would be sufficiently treated and thereafter be chlorinated before being discharged as treated effluent into the Yallahs River.
Mr. Buchanan said that based on preliminary checks, the Commission has determined that there was no significant impact on the water quality of the river at this time, as the river has returned to its normal course and was not now flowing alongside the wastewater pond.
Nonetheless, further checks and studies are being carried out to determine the impact on water quality, he said.
The Communications Manager stressed that the Commission was working assiduously to rectify the problem and ease the discomfort of the residents, but pointed out that a resolution of the situation would take some time.
“We have already taken steps to begin the process and are continuing to work on bringing a final solution to this problem, but it must be recognised that it is a problem which is neither easy to fix, nor will it be cheap, and the solution certainly is not instantaneous,” he stated.
He said that the NWC was exploring its options in the hope of restoring normal treatment process in the shortest possible time. One option, he cited, “would involve extensive reclamation of the land. We will have to do extensive earthworks to bring back soil and other materials to build up the area that has been entirely washed away.”
This option will require extensive river training so that the reclaimed land is protected from future rainfall events. Furthermore, a series of ponds or alternative type of sewage treatment facility would need to be constructed at the same location.
The other alternative would involve constructing a new sewage treatment facility, be it facultative ponds, oxidation ditches, aerated chambers, or some other mechanical type of system, in a different location.
“We would also need under this option, to do diversion and reconstruction of the sewage network, because if we are going to have the treatment facility at a different location, we would now have to redirect the sewers. This is not an easy task because we have to maintain the engineering integrity of the sewers and therefore any new location would need to be relatively close to where the existing facilities are or involve some elaborate reconstruction of the sewers,”Mr. Buchanan explained.
While the Commission has not yet made a decision as to which was the best option, Mr. Buchanan told JIS News that the agency was likely to go the route of reclaiming the land and reconstructing the facility, because the National Works Agency (NWA) has already commenced river training works on the Yallahs River, which would greatly aid the Commission’s work.
In the meantime, Mr. Buchanan is advising residents to exercise caution at the wastewater site. “We do not expect persons to use the area of the grounds of the facility as a thoroughfare or access-way. Children should not be allowed to go on or play near the area,” he cautioned.