Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) has approved funds for a
sewage system for the entire Peninsula Peninsula.
Engineers without Borders developed a sewage system plan for the
Peninsula in 2006, but the passage of time may make that system
obsolete and IADB is currently taking bids for an update of the
proposed system -- or a completely new system design.
Draft Final Report, Feasibility Study for the Placencia
Peninsula Pilot Wastewater Management System, 20 January 2012
Appendix to Draft
The Placencia Peninsula has no sewage
system. Except for resorts that are required to install
and operate their own sewage treatment plants, business and
residential sewage is contained by individual septic tanks -- or
in some cases, disposal of night waste directly into the Lagoon
This wasn't a problem when a few hundred people lived on the
entire Peninsula. But now? Well, sewage is a
problem, and it is only going to get worse.
put too fine a point on it, much of the water we “consume” is
not “consumed” at all. Our
bodies process or use it to make cells, and to carry
various nutrients (via the blood) and waste products through our
bodies and out (via urine)
Unfortunately, the raw liquid urine (let’s call it waste shall
we?) which is mainly water, contains a cocktail of chemicals and
byproducts from the frighteningly complicated business of
keeping our bodies alive and growing. Chemicals in this waste
come from our intake of food and drink, from tobacco if we
smoke, from medicines when we are sick, and even from the air we
breathe. The good news is that potentially harmful as this waste
is, it is sterile and contains no pathogens in a normal healthy
the solid waste from the human body is another matter. This
solid waste is mainly composed of materials that cannot be
broken down fully in the body during their transit time through
the gut, plus by-products from the digestive process.
Unfortunately, as it exits our bodies, the solid waste
carries with it some of the bacteria which are used in the gut
to effect breakdown and absorption of the foods etc we ingest.
bacteria (such as the famous E. coli) are perfectly safe deep in
our bodies and engaged in the digestion process.
However if/when any are carried outside the body, they
can become a very serious threat to our health.
A bacteria like E. coli - a major cause of food poisoning
- can even become a life threatening pathogen in extreme cases.
Prevention of this is, of course, the basis of good
bathroom hygiene, but that’s another story. Suffice to say, in
contrast to liquid waste, solid waste poses a direct threat to
human health if it is allowed to contaminate the human food
chain in any way.
nature of the chemicals leaving our bodies varies from simple
things like salt, to very complex amino acids, and even hormones
from food. The two forms of waste, solid and liquid are normally
collected together and subjected to treatment which makes them
safe to discharge.
problem is that every man, woman, and child on the planet
contributes to this waste every day of their lives.
So incidentally do all mammals, fish, etc. The
composition is highly dependent on lifestyle as well as what is
being consumed, deliberately or unintentionally.
waste must be treated as it can cause severe damage if it gets
into water courses or the sea, or anywhere where it might
re-enter the human food chain.
animal drinking such water could reintroduce the pathogens back
into the human food chain with disastrous results for man.
This waste, besides being a danger in itself, may be a
breeding ground for disease and for insects like mosquitoes and
flies which can spread diseases and contaminants amongst people.
do we do about this?
Well, fortunately, many largely successful ways of treating this
waste have been developed.
Basically waste has to be broken down by bacteria,
sometimes in the presence of air (aerobic), sometimes in its
By the time the breakdown process is finished in a septic tank,
or a digester, we are left with a liquid which can be safely
allowed to run out into the surrounding land and dispersed, and
with a sediment which can often be used as a soil booster.
The key thing is that the breakdown process must be
allowed to finish so that any pathogens or chemicals are broken
down before the liquid is released.
PCSD fit into this?
Well, the quality of the sewerage disposal processing system
cannot be compromised wherever the location.
The system may require electricity and piping systems
which must be capable of withstanding storms and excess water
proposed effluent discharge area must be such as to avoid any
is an area often overlooked but is critical to long term safety
Problems can build up over a long period of time and suddenly a
health issue arises.
This issue may affect residents of the development itself, or
nearby communities, as when for example untreated sewage is
discharged into the sea. It
may be absorbed by fish (lobsters and shellfish like conchs are
particularly prone to absorption of pathogens) and people eating
such contaminated food may become sick and even die.
the problem PCSD faces is not so much willful neglect or
unviable treatment schemes (although we have seen both
proposed), but sheer
lack of knowledge amongst not only the general public, but more
surprisingly, by the developers themselves.
country like Belize with its low population density, these
issues are not well-known because pollution tends to be slight
and passes unnoticed.
However when the population density rises, as is starting
to happen on the Peninsula, the dynamics change and cross
contamination is far more likely.
believes that this clear threat to public health is of
particular concern in our Lagoon which is bordered by an ever
increasing number of new developments all discharging
All their discharges either drain into the sea or the
Lagoon ultimately. For obvious reasons, many are not anxious to
disclose how their sewage is being treated, and little or no
testing of water quality is being done.
What little there is appears not to be in the public
domain. We wonder
continue to campaign for openness on this issue and for
enforceable standards to be set and rigidly applied to all new