The WatSan programme is making good progress to upgrade sanitation systems in Muri village. Tekao Herrmann of WatSan advised that already, 20 properties with septic tanks in good condition have had their septic tanks retrofitted with “biofilters”.
Biofilters are scientifically proven to advance the treatment of septic tank effluent by up to 40%.
“Another 200+ properties will either need their septic tanks replaced or will require the installation of packaged treatment plants because the existing system is inappropriate or failing," says Herrmann.
"The replacement tanks will also have biofilters installed," Herrmann adds.
TIS Programme Manager, Jacqui Evans, who previously worked on sanitation policy at the Ministry of Health says she thinks the programme will lead to improvements in Cook Islands sanitation overall.
“Simply getting this work done is improving the technical knowledge of those involved in this programme,” says Evans.
“This will have long-lasting effects,” she explains.
WatSan is advertising for tenders to upgrade sanitation systems on the other 200+ properties in Muri.
There is also a high-level tender to perform a cost-benefit analysis examining the various options for sanitation on Rarotonga. Options include:
1. Centralized sewerage where sewage is piped to a central place, treated and then disposed either in the ocean outside the reef or on forest/plantations inland,
2. Cluster systems where several properties share one treatment system
3. On-site treatment where each property treats and disposes of their wastewater on-site (the current arrangement except for Tepuka-Tereora) and
4. A combination of cluster and on-site systems.
The deadline for submission of high-level tenders has closed and recommendations have been put forward to the tender committee.
The WatSan programme is implemented by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning and funded by NZAid and AusAID.
The programme was devised because of concerns over increasing development on Rarotonga and Aitutaki's coastline and the effect of inadequately treated wastewater on the health of the coastal lagoon and coral reef.
TIS is represented on the Programme Steering Group along with other government and non-government stakeholders.
“We’re pleased with the progress,“ says Evans.
“This is not an easy process but the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning is doing really well,” she says.
“It’s largely because of their active and dedicated Acting Secretary, Donye Numa, their Programme Coordinator Ken MacDonald, and their fabulous team, Tai Nooapii, Tekao Herrmann, and Paul Maoate.”
Miss Cook Islands and Miss South Pacific 2006 Krystina Kauvai was the education coordinator but she has now moved to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.
Evans says the programme will assist with building the capacity needed to inspect and enforce the Public Health Sewage Regulations 2008.
“This is needed urgently,” she says.
Evans says she is uncertain if enforcement capacity will be improved through supporting the Ministry of Health or by altering the regulations so that MOIP has responsibility of regulating construction and Health the sanitation responsibility.“Whatever the case, building capacity for enforcement is an essential part of the programme,” she says.