As many of you have noticed, professional workers and engineers have begun the construction and placement of the new emissor at the river bed which connects to the main beach. This is part of an ongoing project from Sayulita’s new Sewage Treatment Plant. I talked with key members from the board of Grupo Pro Sayulita, who began this project several years ago and remain the liasons with the government officials now in charge of the plant and project. All of the projects have been designed to upgrade previous wastewater management systems. Phase 1 began more than two years ago, and phase 3, being done now, will be completed in the next few weeks.
When and why did this project first begin?
Until about two years ago, Sayulita suffered from occasional spills of grey and black water in Gaviotas street, where it connects with Calle Navarrete. These problems occurred during the rainy season, when rain water overwhelmed the old system in place. Grupo Pro Sayulita partnered with other government associations of Sayulita and Bahía de Banderas to understand this problem and solve it. Old and insufficient pumping was found, and it was discovered that the holding tank in the wastewater plant, known as a carcamo, was too small for our growing town. The upgrade to our current treatment plant doubled the capacity of the holding tank.
What was phase 1 of this project? What are the other phases?
Over two years ago, Grupo Pro Sayulita partnered with Oromapas, CEA and CONAGUA. Grupo Pro created an infrastructure committee and funds that worked with these government agencies and local and international engineers in order to authorize the needed work and fund it. At that time, CEA and CONAGUA agreed to provide the necessary permits, and Grupo agreed to fund phase 1, now known as the “Gaviotas Project”. Also, at this same time, Conagua and CEA agreed to create phase 2 and fund it. Phase 2 included the repair and upgrade of the waste management plant itself. These organizations also agreed to plan and fund phase 3, the underwater emissor. Over the last year, phase 2 was completed; now phase 3, the emissor, will be complete in the next several weeks.
How does an underwater emissor work?
Emissors are the most common form of wastewater management systems in the world, and are used all over Latin America, the US, and Canada. The emissor was designed by completing a wave and ocean study to ensure that the pipe does not disturb the reef, and to ensure it is located in a place that is safe for both ocean life and humans. Our emissor will send treated water 2.3 km from the coast; it will be attached to the ocean floor and sit about 60m down from the surface. The treated water released can then be further broken down by natural ocean chemicals and effectively become food for ocean animals. This system will allow us to not put treated water into the river bed, and will allow the natural estuary of the river mouth to return. This is the work being completed now.
What would you say to skeptics, or those who think this project will not work or is even more harmful to the environment?
There are many who do not understand this project and who do not understand just how common it is throughout the world. The reason it is so commonly used is that it is not a complicated system, and it works. For two years, we met with teams of wastewater engineers from all over the world, and every single one of them landed on this solution. In this consultation process, environmental protection was the first goal. The water will be treated from the treatment plant and discharged more than 2km from the coast, where it will be mixed with seawater without any negative consequences for marine flora and fauna. There are also those who are worried that the emissor will change the path of the waves; this is simply not going to happen because it is a pipe of just over 20cm in diameter, which will be fastened with concrete bases every four meters, and will be semi-buried, so as to not alter the ecosystem.
When do you anticipate the project to be completed?
The treatment plant is ready to go and is waiting to be connected to the emissor. The emissor is scheduled to be completed in the next several weeks, however that does depend on the conditions of the ocean. We will be working with Conagua to publicly announce the completion of the emissor when finalized.
To find out more about this project and the treatment plant, contact Grupo Pro Sayulita.
*Written by: Aanya Sheikh-Taheri