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Thursday, January 23, 2014

EVERY house has a wastewater treatment facility. Yes, but it’s a simple structure which is unlike the complicated systems usually found in factories and commercial establishments. This lowly but effective mini-treatment plant is called a septic tank, a.k.a. pozzo negro.

The human waste that goes into your water closet or inodoro (Spanish word for toilet) goes straight into your septic tanks where it is digested by billions, perhaps trillions, of bacteria. Homeowners should ensure that the design and location of their septic tanks should conform with building standards otherwise it will cause some sanitation problems.

While bacteria works wonders by treating the waste, they cannot prevent it from accumulating. Thus after sometime, the septic tank has to be de-sludged. In short, kailangang magpasip-sip! Per guidelines of the Department of Health, de-sludging of septic tanks is mandatory before the solids exceed 50% of the tank volume or done every 3-5 years whichever comes first.


No problem with pasip-sip of septic tanks because there are companies doing this service. But what happens to the material taken out of your Pozzo Negro? Well, it has to undergo treatment and not just dumped into vacant lots or rivers. Sewerage treatment for domestic sources is supposedly a basic service, but only a few areas in the country have sewage treatment plants.

According to a World Bank report in 2003, urban centers like Metro Manila, has a sewerage treatment that covers only 8 percent of the population. In Baguio City it is at 2 percent, Davao City at 2 percent, Zamboanga City and Bacolod City at 1 percent. Today, the coverage may have expanded but I’m sure it is not yet 100 percent.

The Clean Water Act of 2004 provides for the construction of sewerage treatment systems for domestic sources. The problem is that this requires huge investment so only a few Local Government Units have it.

The Clean Water Act says that the national government may allot, on an annual basis, funds for the construction and rehabilitation of required facilities. Each LGU however, may enact ordinances adjusting local property taxes or impose service fee system to meet necessary expenses for the operation and maintenance of sewerage treatment or septage management facility servicing their area.

In Mabalacat City, the Mabalacat City Water District (MCWD) has embarked on a landmark project to build a sewerage and septage facility for their customers. The preliminary work such as feasibility studies has been done. The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) is now in the process of preparing an ordinance in support of the project.

Last Wednesday, the members of the SP along with the Directors, Officers and Staff of MCWD went to Baliwag, Bulacan to observe the operation of the sewerage and septage plant of the Baliwag Water District (BWD). The facility boasts of being the first in the country. The facility is small, but impressive. It is clean and practically odorless. The facility proposed by MCWD will be more than twice the capacity of that of BWD.

After the visit, the MCWD will conduct an information campaign on the project. For its part, the SP will hold public consultations for the ordinance being prepared.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 24, 2014.


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