II. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN SUVA
C. Waste disposal and pollution
3. Wastewater and sewerage
According to the 1986 population census, 61 per cent of urban dwellers had a flush toilet in which wastes were either retained in septic tanks or discharged into the local sewerage system. Similar data are not yet available from the 1996 census. Much of the Suva area is located on marl (soap stone) which does not allow septic tank effluents to percolate properly. In addition, the high annual rainfall (more than 3,000 mm annual average) and low evaporation (1,300 mm annual average) results in frequent saturation which tends to prevent oxygen penetration. That leads to slow and inefficient natural treatment from the city's septic tanks. Combined, those conditions result in very widespread seepage of sewerage waste into Suva's numerous creeks. Some, such as Nubukalou Creek, have been described as "sewers rather than creeks".
Rapid urban growth has outstripped planning and development, resulting in inadequate sewage treatment capacities for nearly all the urban centres. The primary concern with sewage wastes is disease caused by pathogenic bacteria in human faeces. A second problem with sewage waste is that the high concentrations of nutrients can cause algal blooms that are destructive to the ecology of the receiving waters. The results of a study undertaken by the University of the South Pacific indicate that the general water quality status of Suva harbour gives cause for concern. The faecal coliform counts in the water showed frequent occurrences of unacceptably high values at several sites, although other sites usually gave levels that were within World Health Organization (WHO) limits for recreational waters. The lack of consistently low values at some sites indicated evidence of sewerage pollution.
Average faecal coliform concentrations greatly exceed internationally acceptable standards in most, if not all, of Suva's creeks. While there is no absolute correlation between the level of faecal coliform organisms and the risk of illness or disease, studies have established a general relationship between the level of sewage pollution and the incidence of gastrointestinal illness among bathers. Of particular concern is Nubukalou Creek which drains a major area of the city that is without sewerage. The National State of the Environment Report states that "with faecal coliform levels thousands of times above an acceptable level it should be regarded as a sewer. The continued sale of fish along the creek bank, with the consequent use of its water for washing them, is a serious health hazard."
Rapid urban growth has outstripped planning and development, resulting in inadequate sewage treatment capacities for nearly all the urban centres. The principal sewage treatment plants of Kinoya and Raiwaqa are frequently unable to function efficiently, and effluents discharged to surrounding waters have often undergone incomplete treatment. The treated wastes of Suva are discharged in the Kinoya outfall and Vatuwaqa River. Sewage effluent discharges are also made into the Wailada Creek at Lami and the Leveti Creek at Nasova. Monthly monitoring for bacterial concentrations in the vicinity of all the treatment plants is carried out by the National Water Quality Laboratory at the Kinoya Sewage Treatment Plant. However, the data are not released to the public and are therefore not available for determining the status of the environment or current trends.
Some areas, such as Lami, Walu Bay, Vatuwaqa and Laucala Beach Estate around Suva, have a collection of smaller industries (bottling plants, food processing plants, paint manufacturers, machine shops, furniture plants, petroleum storage and garment manufacturers) that produce wastes, particularly liquid wastes, that are discharged into coastal lagoons with limited water exchange. The water pollution from those areas significantly reduces water quality in the near-shore waters around Suva and Lautoka. There are no effective regulations to control the profusion of water pollution sources in those industrial estates, and the streams and creeks that drain those areas are probably the most polluted in the country.
Fish wastes in suspension from Voko Industries cannery at Laucala Beach are not treated before disposal. As a result, the noxious smell emanating from the cannery is the subject of ongoing complaints. The effluent from the cannery, which has a very high biochemical oxygen demand, is discharged into the sewerage system, greatly taxing the Kinoya Treatment Plant which is already working at near capacity. Blatant dumping of pollutants and sometime hazardous material are commonly seen in these localities. Some, such as the illegal reclamation of the foreshore using discarded vehicle batteries in Walu Bay, should be considered a "hazardous waste area" and, because of on-going leaching of pollutants into the sea, should be accorded a high priority for mandatory clean-up.
The discharge or emission into any water resource shall at all times be in accordance with the approved policy on water quality management or implementation programme, or any environment protection policy specifying acceptable conditions for discharging or emitting wastes or pollutants into any water resource, and shall comply with relevant existing enactments and any standards prescribed under this Act and any relevant regulations made under it.
With the exception of glass bottles, and the recently established Tiko Industries operation, there is no significant recycling of waste in Suva. The major reason is the insufficient quantity and the dispersed distribution of the waste which makes it uneconomical to invest in a recycling plant. Such considerations do not usually include cost-saving for the municipal authorities concerned with the reduction of the volume to be collected and disposed. Government or municipal authorities should offer economic incentives to attract such an investment.