JIS News

Work is well underway on the US$50 million Soapberry Wastewater Project in St. Catherine, which is aimed at saving the Kingston Harbour.
Chief Engineer and Senior Vice President at the National Water Commission (NWC) Franklyn Williams, tells JIS News that the first phase, which involves the connection of communities in Kingston and St. Catherine to the system, should be completed by October 2007.
“We are quietly going on there.the transmission mains, the geotechnical earthworks at the plants are well advanced,” he says.
While ground was officially broken for the project in January, preliminary work on the facility started last year.
The project involves the creation of several successive sewage treatment ponds, which will have the capacity to treat in excess of 20,000 imperial gallons of wastewater on a daily basis, utilising state-of-the-art biological aerobic technology.
According to Mr. Williams, the project is going to make a “sterling difference” in many aspects of wastewater treatment in the corporate area and “will greatly reduce the pollution of the Kingston Harbour, caused by inadequately treated wastewater flowing into the harbour”.
Studies have shown that at least 20 million gallons of untreated sewage is discharged into the harbour daily, in addition to 1.5 million tonnes of solid matter, which have compromised the existence of marine life.
Wastewater treatment systems like that at Soapberry are designed to digest much of the organic matter, before the wastewater is released in the harbour, so that this will not occur. “With this kind of system in place.the wastewater is treated towards a state of purity,” Mr. Williams says.
Explaining the treatment process, he tells JIS News that once the sewage is collected, it will go through a process of oxidation, where it will be broken down by algae in the presence of sunlight and oxygen. “The sewage then flows into a maturation pond during which solid matter settles to the bottom of the pond, with purer water flowing into the river, and eventually the sea,” he outlines.
He says that eventually, the wastewater flowing from the Soapberry site will be relatively potable when it enters Kingston Harbour, thereby significantly reducing pollution.
The sewage to be treated at the plant will be transmitted from all NWC collection points such as Nanse Pen off Spanish Town Road and Darling Street, downtown Kingston.
Located on some 133 hectares (333.59 acres) of land, the Soapberry project site is expansive, spanning the parishes of St. Catherine and Kingston and is bound on the south by Hunt’s Bay, to the north by the Jamaica Railway Corporation rail line, to the east by the Duhaney River and at the west by the Rio Cobre.
Funding for the project is being provided through the Urban Development Corporation and the National Housing Trust, which have each put up US$4.8 million; the NWC has contributed US$1 million; while ASHTROM Building Systems is investing US$2 million. The additional US$38 million has been secured through a loan from the National Commercial Bank.
The NWC, as the primary agency for management and operation of the completed plant, will have responsibility for delivering the sewage to the collection points, while Central Wastewater Treatment Company (CWTC), a new entity formed by the partners in the venture, will have responsibility for treatment.
According to Legal Counsel for the NWC, Gawaine Forbes, “the NWC . already has in place a contract by which the Central Wastewater Company will treat the wastewater colleted by NWC. The price charged by the company will be fixed by the Office of Utilities Regulation.”
Meanwhile, Communications Manager at the NWC, Charles Buchanan told JIS News in an interview earlier this year, that NWC would be willing to collaborate with any entrepreneur, who wanted to creatively use the treated effluent for a biogas project.
He informed that the company had already collaborated with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) in using treated effluent from the Montego Bay sewerage ponds as part of cooling down operations at a JPS facility. Wastewater has in the past, been used for irrigation purposes.
Phase two of the project Soapberry Wastewater Project will involve the connection of Portmore to the system, at a cost of some US$10 million.

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