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Timely checks on STPs imperative to prevent untoward incidents

Pavithra TG, DH News Service, Bengaluru, Jan 21 2018, 21:15 IST

How safe are Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) installed in apartment complexes across the City? To understand this, DH interacts with a few apartment owners to gather interesting insights on the critical maintenance and safety issues.

The death of three workers in an apartment in HSR Layout has been a wake-up call for all apartments. This came across clearly in the interactions.

A resident of Freebird Apartment in Victorial Layout, Rajamani Muthuchamy strongly recommends that workers should not be exposed to health hazards. "They should be provided with safety gears and cleaning equipment to ensure that their health is not at risk," he says.

His message: The rules that apply to municipal waste clearance should apply to STPs too. Mechanical cleaning should be adopted to avoid human contact with the liquid or solid waste that the municipal workers are required to deal with.

Besides, he says, the planning and enforcement authorities should be clear about the capacity and appropriate treatment technology to be adopted for an apartment. This should be known right at the stage where the apartment construction is approved.

He says, "It is equally important to ensure that such treatment facility is actually provided for and the same is functioning as per the prescribed norms."

Failure to adhere to the norms, he says, will lead to sewage water not being contained and treated within the premises. "There is a greater likelihood of the untreated sewage finding its way into the streams and open areas jeopardising the health of the residents as well as people living in the neighbourhood."

A resident of Mantri Greens apartment in Bengaluru West notes that advanced water treatment technology with detailed design and workflow mechanism will certainly benefit the residents of an apartment. "The importance of STP in the present scenario is imperative as water is the basic need of people. Using it meticulously is possible only through STP," he says.

Timely maintenance will help avoid malfunctioning of STPs. "In general, the onus lies on the builder who takes the responsiblity for maintenance and upkeep of STP till the occupants or housing society takes over," the resident says.

STP experts say a worker should first be treated as a human being and not robots that can endure poisonous gases in treatment tanks and manholes. In the case of manholes, the workers ventures into dangerous territory for monetary reasons. As an expert put it, "Never in their dreams would they want to loose their lives. But this is the reality."

Underground sewers (and a few STPs), are left unopened for months. This leads to accumulation of toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide and methane. It also contains large amount of ammonia, chlorides, sulphate and mercury. This leads to high temperature inside the sewers. So as the worker enters the manhole, he may suffocate and die due to asphyxiation.

To prevent accidents such as the recent one in HSR Layout, workers have to be adequately armed with all the safety equipment before they enter a confined area. Besides, there should be additional persons as standby waiting outside at the time of emergency. Most apartment residents that DH spoke to admit this is the way forward.

Strict guidelines on STP maintenance are yet to be officially issued from the agencies concerned. While some apartments have been lax in adhering to even the basic norms, there are models to emulate. This apartment complex on the city's outskirts has formed a sub-committee to look specifically into STP matters and ensure that it functions optimally.

Only skilled people are employed here for even the cleaning job. Since the plant enjoys round-the-clock monitoring, chances of toxic gases accumulating in the enclosed treatment chamber is virtually eliminated.

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