Saint Lucia is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) located within the Eastern Caribbean at latitude 13° 59’ N, and 61° W within the Lesser Antillean Arc of the Caribbean Archipelago. The land area is approximately 616 km2 and it is situated on a volcanic ridge connecting to Martinique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, towards the north and south respectively. The island is 42 km long and 22 km wide at its widest point, and a coast line of approximately 158 km.
Notwithstanding its small size, the island possesses a high degree of diversity, not only in the ecosystems and habitats found on the island, but also in the variety of biological resources present, some of which are endemic to the country. Biodiversity is important to the country for food, shelter, medicines, ecosystem services, sustainable livelihoods, agriculture and tourism industries and future untapped industries of the country.
The Saint Lucian economy remains largely dependent and open, with a significant portion of its consumption needs (up to 60% of GDP) imported. The key economic sectors are tourism and agriculture, with the economy having undergone a major transition from an agrarian-based economy to a service economy since the 1990’s.
More than 50% of the population lives in Castries and Gros Islet in the north of the island with an average density of 7006 per sq. km in this area. The capital is Castries and the total population is 184,000 (2014, World Bank).
For more information see: http://www.govt.lc/
Current Issues and Challenges in Wastewater Management
(Source: “Regional Sectoral Overview of Wastewater Management in the Wider Caribbean Region. Situational Analysis” prepared by UNEP-CEP/RCU in 2010.)
- In Saint Lucia, wastewater treatment is inadequate. There is an absence of wastewater management in most communities. Castries is served only with a wastewater collection system which discharges raw sewage into the marine environment via a near shore outfall (UNEP-CEP, 2006).
- The water and sewerage company has the mandate to provide services island-wide but does not have the financial capacity.
- In most parts of the island, industrial wastewater is either partially treated and discharged into a natural water course or untreated and discharged into open drains. This pollution ends up on the coast, often near villages and towns, causing severe environmental problems.
- The only wastewater treatment is applied to wastewater from parts of Gros Islet, for which the Water and Sewerage Company employed an Advanced Integrated Pond System. With this system the sewage goes through a screen before going through four lagoons, of which the first two are equipped with surface aerators. The effluent then flows into Rodney Bay via a stream and mangrove. Assessments of the system by the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI, 2009) revealed that the effluent quality was described as good but does not consistently meet LBS Protocol Standards, but the system capacity was under-utilized. This system is used by 13.2% of the country’s population.
- 57 percent of local communities in Vieux Fort had access to water closets (of which 86 percent had septic tanks and soakaways, 12 percent had septic tanks and tile fields, and 2 percent had connection to a sewage treatment plant), while 39 percent used pit latrines and 4 percent were associated with indiscriminate defecation (UNEP-CEP, 2006).
- The rest of the island is served with small package plants, septic tanks, out-houses and other undefined local systems. Although the technology used in septic tanks is sometimes not appropriate for certain locations, it is the disposal and treatment method that is promoted.
- Poor sewage treatment and disposal results in high bacterial levels in some coastal areas and affects the health of the local population and the environment. Children have been affected by parasitic worms called helminths (UNEP-CEP, 2009).
- In the Vieux Fort area, the Sewage Needs Assessment surveys (UNEP-CEP, 2006) which were conducted among agencies, institutions, organisations and the relevant communities, revealed the following:
- Grey water was discharged either in the sewer system or into open drains, with little to no treatment before disposal. With respect to black water, only 15 percent of the agencies undertook secondary treatment via a sewage treatment plant (STP), and effluent from STPs were disposed of in the marine environment;
- The majority of the agencies (76 percent) utilized septic tanks and soak-away systems, and a small proportion (8 percent) used a septic tank and watercourse;
- The potential for pollution was clearly evident as 46 percent of the sewage disposal systems were within 100 m of a natural watercourse; 23 percent were within 100 m of the high water mark; 23 percent indicated that their systems had overflowed in the past due to malfunctions; and 8 percent of STPs frequently malfunctioned and discharged raw sewage in the marine environment;
- Many of these systems suffer from illegal connections.
- The National Water Policy for Saint Lucia outlines the intention of the Government to undertake the expansion of the sewerage network in areas of high population densities; to investigate the feasibility of wastewater reuse; and to strengthen the capacity of monitoring and regulatory agencies.
- The absence of national standards is a weakness. Whereas the Ministry of Health can make reference to the nuisance factors contributing to negative environmental impacts, the absence of standards makes it harder to prosecute such cases. Currently, the Government of Saint Lucia along with the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards is in the process of developing Recreational Water Quality Standards, the define parameters and limits for coastal and riverine waters (UNEP-CEP, 2009)
- There is no legislation specifically requiring generators of wastewater to conduct routine testing and water quality monitoring. However the Water and Sewerage Act Cap. 9.03 requires regulation of waste in designated waste control areas, whereupon conditions of an assigned waste discharge permit may include routine water quality monitoring carried out by the generator of the waste. There are, however, no designated waste control areas presently. The onus is on regulatory authorities to verify through surveillance and monitoring, that generators comply with legally enforceable limits, or disposed of effluent within limits that did not constitute public health nuisances or pollute the water resources. The contributing factors to the weakness of inadequate monitoring were largely identified as human resource and technical capacity and budgetary constraints. In some cases, due diligence policies internal to the organization accounted for some monitoring, but this was not legally required and the results could not be submitted to the regulator as an obligation. In Saint Lucia, this type of monitoring was largely noted among hotels, who conducted quality checks of drinking water, recreational water (e.g. in swimming pools), treated wastewater and more rarely for coastal water.