Pollution-hit residents deliver petition to minister


The ongoing problems at the Le Rocher substation (photo) have been attributed to the age and deteriorating condition of the sewage system as a whole

The petition concerns the Le Rocher PUC substation, located at the Roche Caiman highway in between Wharf Hotel and Airtel where the Victoria Centralised Sewage Network flows through to be pumped further to Providence Sewage Treatment Plant.

According to the petition, residents have complained on numerous occasions since 2006 to various government authorities about the substation being overloaded and dumping effluent into the lagoon but say the problem still persists.

“We are affected and concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to stop PUC from dumping sewage sludge into Le Rocher Lagoon once and for all,” reads the petition.
“We have a right to a clean environment, to breathe clean air and not to be subjected to unbearable pollution from sewage.”

The director for standards and enforcement at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Marie-May Jeremie, said that her ministry has been meeting with PUC since the start of the problems seven years ago.

“We have advised them on upgrading their sewage network and repairing the sections of the plant that is giving problems,” said Ms Jeremie. “However, it is unfortunate that some of our instructions have not been followed to the letter.”

“We are able to issue PUC with notices and even fines if they fail to carry out the ministry’s recommendations. This is part of the role we play in enforcement to bring about remedial action. In the long term, there is the possibility that a decision will have to be taken at national level, and full action may have to be carried out to overhaul the entire sewage processing system.”

When asked about the effect of the pollution on the tourism industry, Ms Jeremie said it was “highly likely” that this was having some negative impact on tourism.
“The highway is the main route to town and often the route taken on first arrival from the airport. It all boils down to what we do from here onwards, but I hope that this time something concrete will happen to solve the problem permanently.”

PUC’s executive chairman, Philippe Morin, said the situation was “highly regrettable” and that the utility company was continually working on the country’s sewage system in order to keep it in the best operational conditions possible.

Mr Morin attributed the ongoing problems at the Le Rocher substation to the age and deteriorating condition of the sewage system as a whole, even though the first of many reported sewage leak problems began at Le Rocher only four years after the brand new waste management system was constructed between the Victoria Centralised Sewage Network and Perseverance.
Mr Morin explained that the recent sewage leak was due to the failure of an electronic control system at the substation.

“The control system has been exposed to the elements for quite a long time and also the environment where it is located contains some fairly corrosive gas emanating from the sewage at the station.”
“It is extremely difficult to prevent such incidents from happening at all,” said Mr Morin. “What I mean by that is that everywhere in the system we need to replace components and this process is ongoing.

“For example, we had already ordered materials such as pumps, valves and other control equipment to replace the equipment at that station. The equipment will be arriving soon – within the next six to eight weeks – and the plan was to immediately replace as many of the critical components as possible at that particular pumping station.”

When asked about the smell emanating from the substation, Mr Morin cautioned that the offensive odour was not likely to be contained completely in the future.

“Some gas from the pumping station will escape, irrespective of what you try to do. The plan has been to install – and we have already placed an order – some filters that would assist us to mitigate it, but there is no guarantee that you can completely eliminate the smell.”

Mr Morin said that although the PUC did have a plan for the upgrading of the entire sewage system, limited resources needed to be allocated not only to sewage but to the entire spectrum of utilities under PUC’s control, such as electricity production and distribution and water storage and supply.

“The whole system is in urgent need of complete refurbishment,” said Mr Morin. “This is why we are addressing critical areas where we have major issues. But we do not have the resources to replace the whole system in one go.”

Meanwhile, residents and visitors to the area have been cautioned not to come into contact with the water in the lagoon and have been requested to contact the Ministry of Health's public health department should they have any further concerns.