Tag Archives: Sri Lanka water pollution

Islands of Paradise, Sewage and Garbage

Cesspools—holes in the ground where untreated human waste is deposited—have become a crisis in Hawaii, threatening the state’s drinking water, its coral reefs and the famous beaches that are the lifeblood of its tourist economy.  Sewage from cesspools is seeping into some of Hawaii’s ocean waters, where it has been blamed for infections suffered by surfers and snorkelers. It is also entering the drinking water in part of the state, pushing nitrate levels close to the legal limit.

Hawaii has 88,000 cesspools across its eight major islands, more than any other state. Collectively, they deposit 53 million gallons of raw sewage into the ground every day, according to the state health department. More than 90% of the state’s drinking water comes from groundwater wells…

Replacing all of the state’s cesspools with alternate sewage systems would cost at least $1.75 billion, according to the health department…At one groundwater well, nitrate levels are already at 8.7 milligrams a liter; the legal limit is 10, and the Department of Health estimated that some parts of the aquifer are already over that limit. Environmentalists say they are worried about the potential effect of the water on infants, who can be killed by high levels on nitrates, which are chemicals found in fertilizer and sewage.

Many bathrooms in homes outside Honolulu still pump sewage into nearby holes in the ground.  Yet, some residents resist plans to replace cesspools, worried about expense. In January 2018, Upcountry Maui residents overwhelmed a Department of Public Health meeting, complaining about potential costs.

Excerpt from Hawaii’s Big Headache: Cesspools, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 12, 2018

The Maritime Environment Protection Authority’s (MEPA) of Sri Lanka spent millions of rupees on coastal cleanups last year — a reflection of “spending public money for public waste,” as the MEPA’s General Manager and CEO, Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara, puts it.

A large proportion of the problem is attributable to inland waste, he notes. “It is not merely what is dumped directly on the beaches, but all that flows through canals and rivers,” he says, pointing out that other triggers, including the fisheries and the tourism sector, are only secondary to inland waste which ends up on the coast. Added to the burden is the garbage which flows from India, Indonesia and Thailand, he says. The MEPA’s role in controlling pollution covers Sri Lanka’s 1640 km coastal belt and extends up to 200 nautical miles to the deep sea, the area, which, according to Dr. Pradeep Kumara, is eight times the size of Sri Lanka’s land area.

The garbage dumped in the coastal vegetation is contributing to the dengue problem…especially the fishing craft, both in use and abandoned, in which water is stagnated.”   Mitigating inland pollution is seen by MEPA authorities as the first step in realising cleaner beaches. They moot a site-specific garbage disposal system, as opposed to a ‘blanket system’. “What works for Colombo will not work for other areas,” says Dr. Pradeep Kumara.

Excerpt Sea of trash: Inland and overseas garbage washes up on Lanka’s beaches, Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Feb. 11, 2018

Gloves Off: How Sri Lanka Treats Protesters

rubber glovesA second Sri Lankan protester died from wounds suffered when troops fired on villagers demonstrating against contaminated water supplies, police said as tensions remained high in the area.  Heavily armed police and Special Task Force commandos were still in the the village of Weliweriya following Thursday’s [Aug. 1, 2013] shooting and locals reported people were fearful of leaving their houses.  Criticism of the army’s use of force has mounted since the shootings.  The independent Lawyers Collective condemned the crackdown against the peaceful protest by villagers who were demanding clean drinking water for thousands of residents of Weliweriya.  One man died from the shooting while another man who was injured died overnight in hospital, police said, raising the death toll to two.  Dozens more protesters were wounded when police opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators. Local television footage showed troops with automatic weapons, some clad in body armour, firing into crowds.

Locals in Weliweriya, 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Colombo, were protesting against runoff from a rubber glove-making plant that they say has polluted their groundwater supply…Dipped Products Ltd, a publicly quoted company that maintains the manufacturing plant, said Friday it was confident the water issue was unrelated to their operations but were cooperating with authorities “for an early settlement of the matter”.

Excerpt, Second protester dies in Sri Lanka water dispute, Agence France Presse, Aug. 4, 2013