Sewage should not flow freely in our environment

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia
Sewer burst

Sewer burst

Sewage waste contains many different types of dangerous contaminants which pose a significant threat to our wellbeing as well as to our flora and fauna. Free flowing sewage is a nightmare that most ordinary Kenyans have to face despite the menace being highlighted in many of the media platforms every other day.
Contamination of the land and clean water sources by sewage can either be caused by raw overflowing sewerage and/or leaking or broken sewer lines. This has become an everyday concern especially for those living in urban areas. With rising population numbers, scientists indicate that we could have exceeded the carrying capacity of the existing infrastructure leading to overload and overflow into the environment. Besides overload, negligent maintenance practices by the sewerage providers exacerbates the problem.
It is in everyone’s best interest to wake up to a clean, healthier and unpolluted environment. The water flowing through our urban areas should not deteriorate in quality due to contact with sewage.Provision of clean water is a necessity (to say the least) especially in busy and densely populated urban areas. We need to be aware also that there are people who live downstream of urban areas. Allowing the urban dwellers and the sewerage providers to pollute river waters with impunity results in denying the downstream population their rights to a clean and healthy environment. In this regard, demanding that our county governments to upgrade existing and to install more functional sewage systems in both urban and rural centres is not a far fetched wish.
In Nairobi, for instance, there is an elaborate sewer system comprising of different sized pipes and a Sewage Stabilization Pond System in Ruai. However, sewerage leaks are common in many places damaging our roads, making our residential estates very soggy, dirty and a health hazard. The worst of it all is to find children swimming in this dirty water or playing all manner of toddler water games. It is not surprising that where sewerage flows freely in the environment, cases of water borne diseases are also common. Besides subjecting parents to huge medical bills, the worst-case scenario is also evident whereby death may occur due to disease complications as well as to drowning in sewer pipes and pools.
The task ahead is to ensure that we have no sewage flowing freely in the environment. All sewage should be in the pipes flowing to Ruai treatment ponds or should be treated at source. This will require investments from diverse fronts. For instance if the sewerage pipes are overloaded, there is need to install a new system. Where there are no sewerage pipes, they need to be installed.
In absence of the sewer pipes, the developers of residential estates are compelled to install appropriate technology to treat the sewage locally and use the water for flushing toilets and flower lawns. The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has been keen to compel use of sewage treatment technologies prior to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval. This has ensured that those places without sewerage or areas with overstretched infrastructure do not have more sewerage discharges into the environment. This practice of recycling water is commendable as it will save water and hence reduce their water bills.
For the members of the public, let us be vigilant and report any sewerage discharges to the environment. It is the mandate of the Sewerage provider to ensure that no sewage flows freely in the environment. Where this does not happen, NEMA will come in and compel the Sewerage provider through issuance of Environmental Improvement Orders and Prosecution of offenders. Hence the public should first report a sewerage discharge incident to the Sewerage Provider and if no action is taken, report the same to NEMA.
For areas that are not sewered, members of the public should report a sewerage pollution incident directly to NEMA. Nobody is allowed to discharge waste water to the environment and NEMA Inspectors will be dispatched immediately to enforce the Water Quality Regulations (2006). Those found guilty of discharging waste water to the environment risk a minimum fine of Kshs 2 million or one year imprisonment or both.
In whose court is the ball now? For sure, the members of the public have a big role to play. They have to compel their public institutions (Sewerage Providers and NEMA) to deliver a clean and healthy environment to them. Don’t keep quiet, engage, engage, and persist till help comes.
As much as we expect those in power to spearhead the mitigation process, we can all contribute individually one way or another. Be your own ‘environment police’- if you will, “Change”, as the platitude goes, begins with you!
Additional insights from Janet

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