Leo Mamicpic used to worry about the high rate of desludging his septic tank—about P3,000 or $65 each time—and the environmental and health effects of having the septage dumped on nearby land and waterways without proper treatment. Now, a better option is available. A new program will provide city residents with regular desludging for a low, more affordable monthly fee, and the septage will be treated and disposed of in accordance with government regulations.
On April 22, 2010 (Earth Day), Dumaguete City and the Dumaguete City Water District inaugurated the country’s first government-funded septage treatment facility. Sitting on a two-hectare lot in the outskirts village of Camanjac, the P25 million septage treatment facility is a low-cost, low-maintenance system made up of lagoons, constructed wetland, and sludge drying beds. With its operation, all 20,000 septic tanks in the city, including Leo’s, will be desludged every 5 years.
The water district collects septage fees to cover the cost of collection and treatment of septage at the rate of P2.00 per cubic meter of water consumed, which will be added to customer’s monthly water bills. The fee was approved by the City Council in 2006 as part of the Septage Management Ordinance, which requires the regular collection and treatment of septage. While the water district collects the septage using vacuum trucks, the city enforces the provisions of the ordinance. The program was developed with technical assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Local Initiatives for Affordable Wastewater Treatment (LINAW) and Philippine Sanitation Alliance (PSA) projects.
A family of five will pay about P42.00 per month for the septage fee, which is sufficient to pay for desludging their septic tank and transporting and treating the septage to kill harmful pathogens and protect the environment. Over 5 years, such a family would pay a total of P2,520; substantially less than the P3,000 per desludging that most pay now. And with the new system, the septage will be properly treated and disposed, unlike the present practice.
Dumaguete Mayor Agustin Perdices called the project a major milestone in protecting the quality of the city’s 16 deep wells and potable water supply, and reducing water-borne diseases. It is the city government’s response to the requirements of the Clean Water Act and increasing risks of ground water contamination by untreated wastewater from septic tanks that are neither properly constructed nor desludged regularly.
Click here to download the Dumaguete Septage Treatment Facility success story.