GWI, UNESCO organise wastewater treatment training

- Van West-Charles says replacement of sewerage system to be considered

A five-day training programme began yesterday to develop strategies to treat the country’s wastewater.

Speaking at the opening of the training programme, which is a result of a partnership between Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Minister within the Ministry of Communities Dawn Hastings told participants at the Millennium Manor Hotel that it has been too long that the country has been struggling with its water resources.

“I am very, very happy, especially as the minister overseeing water. Even though Guyana is called the land of many waters, we have a shortage of water,” she said, while pointing out that when certain parts of the country are flooded, the wastewater that can be harvested is not.

“We have lots of water resources–rivers and creeks that are unpolluted. We need to look at water security and how we can maintain those waters to supply the best quality to the citizens,” she added.

Hastings also urged the gathering to start considering and implementing actions to preserve the water supply to cushion the inevitable effects of climate change.

GWI Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles related that the point of the training was not to solely benefit the water company but for the entire country.

He explained that it was a wastewater treatment conference held in Sweden last year—where Guyana scored 0—that prompted him to visit UNESCO to begin a discussion on how best it could provide the capacity building for not only GWI but all the other stakeholders in the area of treatment.

“We know Georgetown is the only place with a sewerage system and we have a plethora of septic tanks and the design is not optimal and we have to look at new designs. I do hope that by the end of this we can stop the disposal of untreated waste into the ocean,” he said.

In addition to the training programme educating the stakeholders, Van West-Charles pointed out that there is a need to educate the entire population in waste disposal. “We are seeing a lot of medical waste turning up in the sewers from the hospitals, which is dangerous to our workers and shouldn’t happen,” he said, while pointing out the programme is the first step towards suitability and there is a need to work along with the Ministry of Education to educate students about the importance of proper waste disposal.

In terms of having a wastewater treatment plant, Van West-Charles explained that the purpose of the training programme is to look closely at which technology is more relevant to the specific areas. “The workshop has to lead to what is the best option [for] treating the wastewater and a plant is one of the options but I think with the advice we are going to get we have to see what is the best option we have,” he said, before adding that the replacement of the sewerage system, which is very old, will also be considered.

Facilitator of the programme, Dr Carlos Lopez Vasquez, also made a few remarks, where he lauded Guyana as being one of the richest places in the world for biodiversity. He added that he was happy to be in the country to help contribute to the wastewater treatment plan.

During the training, the participants will learn about the technology and science behind wastewater treatment.

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