Costa Rica hosted the Latin America Sanitation Conference, LATINOSAN in April of 2019, which brought together over 1000 experts and public officials from Latin American and Caribbean countries to analyze social, economic, environmental and political changes that affect issues of sanitation methods, sustainable development planning and universal access to potable water in urban and rural areas throughout the region.
During this year’s conference, the director of the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers, AYA stated that the country has invested in environmental matters and is a respected nation for these efforts, but the quality of the water in the rivers and the pollution is quite high. She also warned that the country suffers serious pollution problems in its groundwater and riverbeds due to wastewater and solid waste disposal methods. The solution to these problems requires investments to upgrade the infrastructure at an estimated cost of $6.2 billion dollars and the projects will be ongoing until the year 2045.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census, INEC as of January 2019, throughout Costa Rica, there were approximately 331,000 homes connected to the public sanitary sewer system. That number of houses is equivalent to 21.5% of all the 1,540,000 homes in Costa Rica. Of all the connected housing in Costa Rica, only 37% (about 123,000 homes) have sanitary treatment plants, and an additional 63% (208,000 homes) have sanitary systems but no treatment plants. The majority rely on septic tanks with sludge drainage discharge which contaminates the groundwater.
Inadequate wastewater management systems create health problems proliferated by contaminated water, pests, and rodents that spread diseases. This is an open-air garbage dump in a tributary of the Virilla river near the capital of San Jose. If the country wants a change, it must educate the citizens to change their habits.
Every house and building should include a properly designed sanitary system, but in many cases, the public systems have become saturated and septic tanks with deficiencies in design, construction, and maintenance cause discharge of polluted water into metropolitan rivers.
Furthermore, wastewater management system deficiencies directly affect coastal tourist areas where polluted waters flow in rivers from metropolitan communities to the oceans, and this raises the risk of contagious diseases by water transmission along public beaches in popular tourist areas near Tarcoles in the province of Puntarenas, where the crocodiles congregate in the Virilla river. This major river has numerous tributaries and sub-tributaries which all drain around 67% of the organic material and untreated waste from the central valley, where approximately 50% of the population of Costa Rica lives and works. After the Virilla river merges with the San Ramón river, they form the Tarcoles River, which discharges all of the untreated wastewater from the central valley into the Pacific Ocean. As you can imagine, the water quality near this area is not desirable for humans, but reptiles, such as crocodiles, alligators, lizards, and iguanas thrive in this environment.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1992 and from his travels throughout the country inspecting land and construction he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about living and doing business in Costa Rica. If you have questions and would like to contact Tom click here.