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Today was much less emotional than yesterday as we didn’t visit any slum areas. Our first stop was another “Association” of pit emptiers located on the beach on Lavender Hill. Here they have dumped raw sewage into the ocean for over 200 years!
We met Pastor Daniel Lamptey, head of the association. He explained their business model and shared his costs and pay structure. This will help us assess business plans for the MSTS unit. The association has over 50 trucks and he was proud that they were bringing in “fill” to increase their parking and beach frontage. They were across the street from the Lavender Hill Treatment plant so emptying trucks was more convenient for them than the other association we visited.
Daniel scheduled a manual pit extraction for us to see. Manual extraction is required when an unlined or damaged pit contains silt or sand in the bottom. These solids prevent the vacuum truck from removing the silt, requiring some agitation for the pump to lift it out of the pit.
The neighborhood was poor but nowhere near the conditions we saw yesterday. The lady owner was extremely happy to see us and made us feel comfortable as we viewed the process – maybe because she didn’t have to pay $350 to empty her pit just so we could watch! She charges her neighbors to use the latrine, but not sure it is a break even proposition if she has to pay $350 to empty it.
After about 10 minutes of sucking the fecal sludge out of the pit, they hit the sand bottom. Now, one of the workers removed his clothes and was lowered into the 10' deep pit wearing only his skivvies and sandals. About 5 minutes later he was pulled out of the pit by his fellow crew members, then was quickly disinfected with a 5-gallon pail of disinfectant and a shower. This is standard practice when the pit gets filled with sand or garbage that the vacuum hose can’t pull out.
After they cleaned up their mess, we met them back on the beach for a debrief. As we pulled up to the beach we noticed a different truck with its back opened up about to unload something. We walked over to the truck we realized it was silt or sand that wouldn’t drain out of the truck during unloading at the treatment plant. The drivers needed a place to dump it, so it made great “fill” to expand their beach front!
Our final stop in Ghana was the newly constructed FVL Fortifier Composting plant, partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On our way we needed a pit stop so we stopped at the Accra mall and went to the bathroom. It was a modern mall typical of U.S. malls.
Once in the country, the roads became very rough due to the rain and septic haulers tearing up the red clay roads.
The compost plant uses fecal sludge delivered by trucks, screens the solids, dries them, mixes them with food waste, and composts for a month before selling as organic fertilizer. They sell three grades of fertilizer with the top grade in pellet form. It was an interesting process, but very labor intensive as everything was done by hand. Ironically, Martha, the head of the plant, is married to Eric, one of our main tour guides this week working for the International Water Management Association.
Behind the composting plant was another sewage treatment plant called TMA but it wasn’t operational. They are still dumping sludge into these lagoons and the current one was overflowing!
We went back to the hotel for a quick debrief of our 4 days in Ghana. We achieved our learning objectives about the sanitation business in Accra and developed a greater appreciation for the humanitarian crisis in Ghana. The challenge from Sun Kim was to keep these images close to our hearts so we never lose the passion in finding solutions to the sanitation crisis. Even the Ghanaian sanitation researchers who coordinated our tours got a new appreciation for the problem, as they have never seen the inner workings of the sanitation business in Nima and Old Fadama.
We left Ghana Thursday evening and arrived in Uganda on Friday at 8:15 AM.
We have an appointment with another “manual pit extraction” shortly after landing!!! Hopefully it will be safer than the one we witnessed today!
Lance found this tidbit in today’s newspaper:
The Ghana government estimates that poor sanitation costs the Ghana economy over $290 million dollars per year. A lot for a small country!
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