The Nature Foundation has been responding numerous times upon request from multiple concerned citizens, about a very strong sewage scent emerging from wastewater being pumped into the Simpson Bay Lagoon by Plaza Puerta del Sol. “Already in December the Foundation had visited the site multiple times and recorded a very strong sewage scent every time and even saw sewage entering the lagoon. This included small pieces of possible toilet paper and feces which were seen floating out of the pipe. The situation was explained to the management of the wastewater treatment plant, as it was evidently emerging from their system” stated the Nature Foundation St. Maarten.
The Nature Foundation advised the management of the treatment plant to directly stop the pumping of the wastewater into the lagoon and to use sewage trucks instead, until the situation is 100% solved and the water is tested to be clean. Besides, the situation was communicated with VROMI inspection and it was advised to not allow to continue these activities.
“A few days later the situation resumed, and we again spoke with the Management and explained to use sewage trucks until the treatment plant is tested to work properly. Unfortunately, last week we have recorded raw sewage to enter the lagoon originating from the Puerta del Sol treatment plant once again” stated the Foundation.
The Nature Foundation did not receive any indication that the treatment plant has been repaired or that the water has been tested to be clean within the standards of their hindrance permit. “In addition, the strong sewage scent, the dirty water being seen to be pumped out and visible toilet paper pieces, show clearly that this treatment plant is not working properly and should be stopped operating before more or irreversible damage has been done” continued the Foundation’s statement.
Pumping raw sewage into the marine environment can lead to serious health issues for surrounding inhabitants. Swimming, diving or walking in water contaminated with fecal bacteria can result in gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea or vomiting), respiratory illness, and infections of the skin, ear, eye, sinus, and wound infections.
Fecal contaminated waters can impact the environment and marine life tremendously, as high nutrient input due to poor sewage treatment creates algae blooms. Poor sewage treatment causes raw untreated sewage finding its ways into water bodies. This contaminated water is rich in nitrogen compounds such as nitrates and ammonia, and causes algal bloom. Algae blooms increase the competition for oxygen, leading to an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem and suffocation of aquatic animals like fish and other marine life, ending up with dead and stinky waters. Marine life species may also be impacted directly, such as the sea turtle disease Fibropapillomatosis which can be enhanced by polluted waters.
Input of high concentrations of nutrients have a very large impact on coral reefs and is actually the main cause of widespread death of coral cover across the Caribbean. Coral reefs are the most productive and species rich marine ecosystems and are critical for fisheries, tourism, shore protection and biodiversity of tropical islands. However, they are the most nutrient sensitive of all habitats, requiring the lowest external inputs to avoid eutrophication and habitat degradation caused by excessive growth of algae, as algae thrive and overgrow corals due to additional nutrient input.
Besides the serious negative health effects and environmental impacts, the sewage scent can seriously harm the tourist industry, as currently the island’s tourists first experience the strong smell of sewage instead of enjoying their vacation when visiting close to this location.