Thursday, March 17, 2005

New houses required to install plastic septic tanks

Source: The Jakarta Post

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The city administration will require all Jakarta residents wanting to build new houses to install fiber-reinforced plastic septic tanks, as part of measures to curb contamination of groundwater and rivers with untreated waste.

"We will require all residents applying for building permits to equip their new houses with these modified septic tanks," Governor Sutiyoso said, after witnessing a signing ceremony marking the establishment of PT PAL Jayabumi Utama, a joint venture company owned by city sewage firm PD PAL Jaya, Malaysian firm Pembinaan Jayabumi (PJS) Berhard, and local partner PT Kandiyasa Dirgatama.

Sutiyoso said the administration decided to adopt the Malaysian technology, which uses a septic tank made of fiber-reinforced plastic, in order to reduce pollution levels from sewage because the technology was "more affordable than building a costly piped sewerage system."

Three years ago, the city administration planned to build deep tunnels and pipes connecting all houses in the capital, but later dropped the project because of the extremely high cost, over Rp 50 trillion (US$5.3 billion).

PT PAL Jayabumi Utama, the joint venture company, would produce septic tanks at its plant at the Jababeka industrial estate in Bekasi, West Java. The tanks would be sold for between Rp 4 million to Rp 5 million per unit, depending on size.

PAL Jaya president director Pudjo Prihadi Santoso said that the administration would be taking a 20 percent share in the US$4 million project.

"Hopefully, we will be able to produce at least 4,000 units of septic tanks for households this year," Pudjo said.

Aside from septic tanks for households, the company will also produce community septic tanks that can be shared by more than 50 houses.

Jakarta is apparently in urgent need of better septic tanks. The City Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) reported that only 39 percent of current septic tanks used by residents can properly neutralize untreated sewage. Also, most of them only process human waste, leaving other waste waters, such as bathing and washing water, to run into the city's drainage system and ending up in the city's rivers.

The agency has repeatedly found high levels of E. coli bacteria in all of the city's 13 rivers.

The bacteria, which comes from human feces and can cause gastrointestinal diseases, has seeped through from septic tanks and has contaminated 80 percent of shallow groundwater wells in the city.

The agency's data shows that Jakarta's population of some 12 million people produces no less than 1.5 billion liters of sewage per day.

"Unfortunately, our sewage treatment plants only handle two percent of total sewage," Sutiyoso said.

Pembinaan Jayabumi Berhad said earlier that the new septic tanks would reduce pollution levels from sewage to 50 biological oxygen demand (BOD), from the 75 to 85 BOD of conventional tanks. It said that the tanks would be equipped with plastic foam that would act as a filter as well as being a hotbed for decomposing bacteria.