By the start of 2023, all 9,000 concessionaires of the Virac Water District will find a new item in their water bill: the P3.56 per cubic meter septage fee approved in a public hearing last week.
The collection of the fee will finance the operation of VIWAD’s Septage Treatment Program, which will provide regular emptying of septic tanks of concessionaires, with the collected sludge of solids and liquids to undergo treatment at its facility at barangay Cavinitan.
According to Division Manager Elaine Ang, inadequately treated domestic wastewater such as septage and sewage account for nearly half of water pollutants as most septic tanks are either undersigned, unlined and regular desludging is not practiced, with the waste directly discharged to drainage canals.
Septage, the solid and liquid mix in the septic tank, contains toxic chemicals, hazardous and organic substances, and pathogenic organisms and thus will cause serious health problems and damage the ecosystem if left untreated.
The Philippine Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge into the earth of any substance that will pollute groundwater while the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973 mandates water districts to provide not only water but also wastewater facilities in their jurisdiction, Ang stressed.
The wastewater management program will initially cater to the water service concessionaires of VIWAD and will eventually expand its services to the entire population of Virac, she added.
The development and construction of septage treatment facility, including lot acquisition and procurement of vacuum and water trucks, cost more than P30 million and, together with estimated utilities expense as well as operation and maintenance cost for the five-year cycle, was used in computing the septage fee.
Thus, for a minimum consumption of 10 cubic meters, a residential customer will pay a minimum monthly septage fee of P35.60.
In five years, the septage fees paid would come up to P2,136.00, which will be cost of the septage service and is way cheaper than the P7,000.00 to P8,000.00 charged by private desludgers, the water district pointed out.
Besides, it stressed, there is no other sewage treatment facility in the entire island, with the private desludger either bringing the untreated sewage to the mainland or, worse, dumping it in canals and rivers.
Non-concessionaires of VIWAD, on the other hand, will be charged P3,500.00 for the service.
Under the program, the district will implement a desludging service cycle of once every five (5) years, which is the prescribed frequency for septic tank cleaning set by the Department of Health.
With 31 barangays and six subdivisions in its service area, VIWAD has scheduled the following barangays for the desludging service based on the five-year cycle: Year 1 – San Vicente, Ibong Sapa, Capilihan, Francia, Rawis, Sta. Cruz, Marcelo Alberto and Lanao; Year 2 – Sta. Elena, Constantino, Danicop, Sto. Nino, Sogod Tibgao, San Roque, San Pedro, Salvacion, San Jose and Moonwalk are; Year 3 – Concepcion, San Pablo, San Juan, Gogon Sirangan, Gogon Tiad, Gogon Centro, Palnab del Norte and Palnab del Sur; Year 4 – San Isidro Village, Calatagan Proper and Calatagan Tibang; and Year 5 – Cavinitan, Valencia and Bigaa.
But before the implementation would begin, VIWAD would have to conduct an information dissemination campaign in its coverage barangays as ordered by LWUA representative Engr. Romeo Diaz.
At the same time, VIWAD personnel will conduct a survey to collect data on concessionaires, including information on existing septic tanks, its location, number of toilets and number of users.
The vacuum and water trucks will then visit the concessionaires and conduct desludging based on the schedule, with the septage to be unloaded at the sewage treatment facility’s stabilization reactor.
From the reactor, the sludge will be discharged into a drying bed, with the liquid going to an anaerobic baffled reactor and then an anaerobic filter.
It will be further treated in a planted gravel filter and finally an activated carbon filter before being safely discharged into the holding and chlorination pond.
In supporting VIWAD’s septage treatment program, barangay captains present during the public hearing asked the management to address the issue of muddy water or lack of service especially after heavy rains.
In response, General Manager Gabriel Tejerero said the issue of “chocolate water” is being resolved, with a filtration system now under construction at its Cauayan source with completion seen early next year.
He added that alternative water sources are being considered, including the construction of deep wells and pumping stations in addition to an existing well at Tagkalo St. in Bigaa.
For now, the district’s finances are tied up following the freezing of P2.6 million in its bank account upon request of the provincial government after VIWAD failed to pay overdue franchise taxes.
He said further that water concessionaires without septic tanks will be asked to provide the facility in their home within five years.
Just the same, they will be billed P3.56 per cubic meter for the septage fee starting in 2023.