In December I attended a surprisingly inspiring slide presentation given jointly by Sustainable Systems & Design International, the St. Croix
company which is proposing a wetlands sewage treatment system here, and Ron Lavigne, an engineer who has successfully pioneered this type of system in places as far flung as New York State and the Ecuadorian Amazon. Examples of its success: in Asia the system is being used to treat the tremendously polluting runoff from pork farms in China and the wastes generated by the Taipei Zoo. Shusufindi, Ecuador, an Amazonian community of about 10,000 people, uses it to treat half a million gallons of waste water a day. In Highland, New York, it treats 10 million gallons a day.
This submerged wetlands system, besides being economical when compared to the traditional treatment plant now under consideration for St.Croix, is innovative and progressive. It is not dependent on the burning of fossil fuels and mechanical components which inevitably break down over time, but is instead a self-sustaining biological system which would create a natural green area that could be used as grazing land for livestock. The clean water the submerged wetland produces would not be wastefully dumped into the sea, but rather returned to our thirsty fields and water table.
The wetlands system would be a real benefit to our community. Besides generating clean, usable water for agriculture, $30 million that would otherwise be spent on the more expensive traditional treatment plant could be applied instead to the maintenance of the existing sewage piping and pumping systems, which we all know are in dire need of attention.
I think it is worth giving this system a chance. We could be a progressive example in the Caribbean region by implementing this sensible alternative to expensive, outdated technology. The move to a self-contained, self sustaining, low-tech method of treating our waste water seems to me the 21st century approach.
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