Poor sanitation and lack of sewage treatment in the Philippines are leading causes of illness, economic losses and death. A 2007 World Bank-USAID study estimated that 55 deaths occur in the Philippines each day due to preventable waterborne diseases, and economic losses exceed PhP78 billion ($1.4 billion). In San Fernando City, La Union Province in the northern Philippines, the Lorma Medical Center and College is using a model wastewater treatment system to help reverse this trend. With technical assistance from the USAID Philippine Sanitation Alliance, the system offers an affordable means for the hospital to eliminate risks from harmful microbes and excessive nutrients in its wastewater. The hospital is now in compliance with government effluent standards.
After an initial capital expenditure of just under Php2 million ($36,000), the system requires minimal operation and maintenance inputs to produce an effluent that is compliant with local discharge standards. “Because of limited space, we had no choice but to go with a mechanized treatment system,” notes Engineer Robert R. Gonzalez, Chief of Maintenance and Transportation Operations at the hospital. “Even though it is mechanized, our system is quite easy to operate and maintain. We have some daily cleaning tasks that take about an hour to complete, as well as some weekly and monthly checks, but other than that, the system basically runs itself.” The system has been in continuous operation since 2008 and is helping to revitalize the city’s estuary which is used for recreation, fishing and domestic purposes.
The USAID Philippine Sanitation Alliance (PSA) is a program of the United States Agency for International Development that brings together cities and private sector partners to develop affordable solutions to sanitation challenges. The Lorma project demonstrates a highly effective and relatively low-cost sanitation alternative that is applicable to addressing many point sources of pollution in the Philippines.
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