NATION | NEWS | Shine A Light

The Problem With Waste And Where It Ends Up

This sewage waste would also in­clude toilet tissues that would scat­ter along the footpath.
10 Jul 2022 15:47
The Problem With Waste And Where It Ends Up
Flori Tokana with son, Akariva Tokana, at the same spot where she saw the waste discharge in Nubukalau creek. Photo: Ronald Kumar

This sewage waste would also in­clude toilet tissues that would scat­ter along the footpath.

Cumming St is one of the busiest and frequented parts of Suva City.

Situated along the street are eater­ies, clubs, pharmacies, jewellery and other shops.

Adjacent to Cum­ming St is the Nubukalou creek that also runs beside a busy shopping mall.

There have been concerns raised recently by members of the public that septic waste was discharged from one of the storm water drains of the retaining walls into the creek.

Numerous complaints have been raised with the Suva City Council (SCC) on this matter, but no one has been held accountable.

Questions sent to the Suva City Council’s director services, Aaron Phillips, remain unanswered.

Instead, he responded: “Having consulted internally, we at this stage would like to ask if we can get a re­sponse to you on this matter after consultation with external stake­holders.”

The Environment Management Act 2005 prohibits any “facility from discharging any waste or pollutant into the environment”.

Offenders are liable to pay a fine of $100,000, the Act further states.

Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong said the improper disposal of such waste was a health concern.

But despite the health and environ­mental risks, Nubukalou creek is still a source of sustenance for some Fijians who use it to fish.

Some, even bathe there. The creek has long been reported as one of the most polluted freshwater sources that leads to the Suva harbour.

One such report is titled “Water quality studies on selected South Pacific lagoons” compiled and pub­lished by the United Nations Envi­ronment programme in 1991.

The report highlights that:

  • The Nubukalou creek receives untreated human faecal waste; which presents the greatest hazard to human health;
  • The mouth of Nubukalou creek in Suva Harbour receives a lot of sewage effluent from a faulty sew­erage junction box, seepages from septic tanks and water from storm­water pipes; and
  • The creek should be monitored further and if possible closed for bathing until appropriate corrective measures have been taken.

The storm water drains, which are direct channels to the creek, are managed by the Fiji Roads Author­ity.

The sewer lines are maintained by the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF). These two underground infrastruc­tures run separately.

They were engineered and con­structed from when Suva was de­clared the Capital City in 1882. Some even earlier.

The main sewer pumping station that covers the Suva area is located beside the Central Police Station at Murray St. It is understood that when there is a blockage in the pump, wastewater backflows.

As a result, it escapes out in the wastewater chambers along the footpaths of Cumming St.

Vili Bukateci at one of the manholes along Cumming St. Photo: Ronald Kumarat

Vili Bukateci at one of the manholes along Cumming St. Photo: Ronald Kumarat

And to some extent, wastewater flows out of the storm water drains during high tide because there is pressure in the sewer line pump.

It is understood that WAF plans to carry out a sewer line upgrade, which includes the Suva area.

Questions sent to the Permanent Secretary for Environment Joshua Wycliffe, director Sandeep Singh and media officer Salvin Deo, re­main unanswered.

However, in a phone call Mr Deo said their inspectors were looking into the matter and the ministry would consult with other external stakeholders before responding to questions.

WITNESSES TELL

Fulori Turagakula and her fam­ily often shop inside the mall when they return from church service on Sundays.

Her children have a habit of stand­ing beside the railings of the creek to watch the fish. But on Sunday (June 19, 2022), the children were taken by surprise with what they had noticed. Her sons are six, seven and 13 years old respectively.

“Just as they were standing there watching the fish, a waste-like dis­charge came through the pipes in the retaining walls,” Ms Turagaku­la said.

This happened during high tide.

“The colour of the water started to change to murky brown and gave out a foul stench. My 13-year-old son understood what it was and told me instantly to report the matter.”

She said the first thing that came into her mind were those who use the river to fish.

“I am very passionate about keep­ing the environment clean and what we saw that day was disturbing, dis­gusting and a health concern.”

Some businesses along Cumming St have also raised their concerns. One business owner, who spoke on the condition of not being identi­fied, said different types of waste come out of the pipes.

“Kitchen waste, rubbish, some­times even waste from the sewer, it all runs off into the river giving out a foul smell,” he said.

Electronic shop employee Vili Bu­kateci said they had lodged their complaints many times with SCC.

“The outlets in front of the shop spew out septic waste. It’s worse during heavy rain,” Mr Bukateci said.

Waste gets discharged from manholes along Cumming St when it rains heavily. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Waste gets discharged from manholes
along Cumming St when it rains heavily.
Photo: Ronald Kumar

“The smell it gives is bad, and it comes out with pieces of toilet pa­per as well.”

When this happens, they must wash it away or sometimes keep customers inside the shop until the wastewater is properly washed away.

“It not only affects the business, but people’s health is also at risk, those who frequent Cumming St and the eateries along Terry Walk.”

Employees of a nightclub in the area said two wastewater chambers in front of the club discharge waste every time it rained.

They also must clean the footpath every time this happens.

“People tend to walk past this place and enter our club, and it’s just not healthy with all the waste from sew­er lines scattered here,” one of the employees said.

“This is a health concern not only for us, but for our customers, people who pass this street and businesses around this area as well.”

An eatery along the street experi­ences the worst. Its operator, who spoke on the condition of not being identified, said: “Septic waste also comes out from the outlet right in front our shop.”

When this occurs, they place two big gallons on top of the wastewater chamber to stop the overflow.

This is a health concern for them and their customers, at times affect­ing their business.

CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN

The Suva Stand-Up Paddlers (Suva SUPers) have cleaned the river twice – one prior to COVID-19 and another after the lockdown.

But there was no change in the waste materials they collected.

Suva SUPers representative Roder­ick Lal said the materials they found varied.

The Nubukalou creek in Suva. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The Nubukalou creek in Suva. Photo: Ronald Kumar

“Some of the debris, and wastes tend to fall into the creek. Plastic bottles are quite high, metal from the industrial areas,” Mr Lal said.

“A major contributor of the rub­bish is a lot of people throwing rub­bish while they walk pass.”

More than a ton of rubbish was col­lected in the first clean up. About 500 grams of waste materials was col­lected in the second clean up.

“We are not only collecting rub­bish, but we also separate the rub­bish into household items, plastic ware etcetera,” he said.

He emphasised the need for people to take pride in their country and ensure their environment is kept clean.

Feedback: ivamere.nataro@fijisun.com.fj

 



Fijisun Ad Space


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.


By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.


Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper