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Wastewater Treatment Arrives to the Town of Puerto Barrios in Guatemala

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In May 1999 work began on a pilot wastewater treatment system in the town of Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. There is no sewer collection system in the town, and untreated sewage is discharged directly into ditches and rivers that flow through the town. To complicate the situation the ground water table in some areas is only a foot below ground surface. Traditional wastewater collection systems would be very expensive to install. A pilot project was proposed to demonstrate the viability of alternative and appropriate wastewater treatment systems for the Central American region. The project became a reality through the joint efforts of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Central American Programs office in Guatemala (GCAP) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region 4 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF) provided local logistical and organizational support for the project through USAID's Local Environmental Policy and Program Initiative (LEPPI).

The first step in the project was to select a wastewater treatment technology that is inexpensive to operate and maintain, yet would provide acceptable treatment. The decision was made to use a septic tank and recirculating sand filter combination. The septic tanks were installed in the homes and the effluent from the septic tanks flowed into a small diameter gravity sewer system (SDGS). The four-inch diameter collection line routed the wastewater to a 3370 gallon pumping station. Wastewater is pumped to a 5000 gallon recirculating sand filter with a design criteria of 5 gallons per square foot per day loading. The system has been operational for over a year and is providing excellent treatment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2001

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