[private] In my last article “Death by Garbage” I talked about the revolting garbage problem in Utila. Now it’s time to deal with Utila’s aguas negras, or raw sewage disposal.
Forty-one years ago when I had the pleasure to arrive on this jewel of the Caribbean, the people on the hill mostly dug a hole or built an outhouse which sort of took care of the sewage problem. It wasn’t perfect and it was sometimes a bit smelly. The people along the shore either had outhouses over the sea or adjacent hog pens. The more advanced residents ran their flush toilets into the sea never considering the impact on the environment.
The waste of barely 1,500 people is now dwarfed by a quadrupling population and thousands of tourists a year. SERNA made an effort to solve the problem after some rather shocking water tests. The already congested roads of Utila, way too small for our current traffic, were dug up in 2009 and created a real “fracaso.” A 4″ PVC pipe was laid with a clearing tank etc, every few hundred yards.
A sewage treatment plant was also built in the swamp to take care of the waste water. However, no houses were ever connected and I was very glad for my real septic tank which has operated flawlessly for over 30 years.
I sometimes see our brave divers doing their open water courses close to our sewage outlets and the added “brown submarine” of turds making its way by the divers. It gives me the creeps. In my many thousands of dives I have had my own harrowing experiences near the aguas negras highways.
After the failure from two years ago, during several weeks with the backing from Ministry of Tourism, another company CINSA is making another attempt to solve the urgent problem. Engineers are all over Utila’s roads measuring and searching for the way out of this mess.
In the last 40 years of water contamination the reefs have been severely affected. Algae growth has grown out of proportion. Even our huge sand patches and eel gardens are sometimes covered with ugly, slimy, green or red algae growth. The oceans worldwide are suffering and shell fish, crustaceans, even reef fish now show high contamination levels.
This is detrimental to us sushi lovers, divers with skin problems and allergies, and just about any esthetically minded person.
I sincerely hope this new attempt by the Ministry of Tourism will solve this serious problem, which is taken much too lightly by most. We owe it to our guests who come from all over the world and pay thousands of dollars to dive in the pristine Caribbean Sea.
Let’s hope CINSA gets the solution. We owe it not only to our tourists but also to ourselves to be able to be safe on land and in the sea. We owe it to our children to protect that incredible inheritance–our Meso American Reef System, the second biggest in the world.
A famous marine biologist once said that if the ocean dies, we die. Let’s not take god’s gift for granted. [/private]