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Septic tanks: More than a solution, an environmental problem in the so-called hotel zone of Tulúm

Septic tanks: More than a solution, an environmental problem in the so-called hotel zone of Tulúm


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By Juan A. Acosta Giraldo

One of the purposes of this article is to make a conscience call to the environmental authority and the hoteliers and restaurateurs in the hotel zone of Tulúm, in order to somehow minimize the contamination of national waters, whether surface or underground, Therefore, it is necessary to point out the problems generated by bad designs and bad solutions to establish minimum specifications in the manufacture of manufactured and prefabricated septic tanks, in order to achieve a sustainable use of said waters.


Introduction

Tulum is geographically located at 20º12'29 "N and 87º27'59" W. Its altitude is 5 meters above sea level. Its access is by highway 307 which communicates 128 km to the north with Cancun and to the south at 260 km with Chetumal, the state capital. There is a secondary road that communicates to the northwest with the archaeological ruins of Cobá, as well as with Chemax and Valladolid, towns in the state of Yucatán. Towards the south and along the coast there is a dirt road that communicates to Punta Allen, the entry point to the Bahía de la Ascención of the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.

Archaeological ruins of Tulum, are the main attraction, the translation of the Mayan is wall or palisade, this name is believed to have been assigned when the Mayan city was already abandoned and in ruins, because at the beginning of the 20th century the Mayans who lived in the surroundings they visited the temples of the city, the original name of the city is "Zamá", whose translation from the Mayan is sunrise or tomorrow.

Another of the great attractions of Tulúm are its beautiful beaches, without a doubt the best of the Mexican Caribbean. The beaches of Tulúm, until the mid-eighties were very little frequented, but the coastal strip has developed a whole hotel infrastructure, which offers tourists all kinds of options.

Demographic and infrastructure growth has been uncontrolled and without a defined environmental criterion, there is no urban environmental order, nor landscape architecture, it has grown and continues to grow uncontrollably. The problem is that the growth of the infrastructure has occurred a few meters from the coastline, in principle (beginning of the '90s) they were small isolated hotels made up of a few cabins, already today (first decade of the 21st century ) As the great possibilities of this area are discovered from the point of view of the quality of the landscape and the quality of the beaches, the hotel zone of Tulúm already has concrete mega-structures on a strip of coastline less than 70 meters wide. more than 50 km of coastline, and the hotels already total more than 30 throughout this area.

What is the real situation?

1.- It is an area of ​​high environmental fragility

2.- The soil profile is not designed naturally for the structural density that exists, nor to support the population density

3.- There is no network of drainage services

4.- Wastewater treatment systems are built without criteria, which generates problems in the medium and long term

II.- Development

The coastal area of ​​Tulúm today has a hotel infrastructure that exceeds 30 facilities and its accommodation capacity can vary from 10 to 40 average tenants per hotel, being able to arrive in high season from 1200 to 1800 guests in the more than 50 km of coastline, To this are added the employment of hotels and restaurants such as chambermaids, waiters, service and maintenance personnel, etc. This figure can reach 2,500 users in high season.

Taking into account that the average water consumption for this area per inhabitant is about 180 L / day, we are talking about 450 m3 per day, of these 80% is eliminated as waste water, we are talking about 360 m3 / day, and all this without control. Each year, between 120,000 and 130,000 m3 of wastewater will have been discharged into the water table

The interesting thing about this is that only 0.5% of the facilities in the so-called hotel zone of Tulúm have some type of concession granted by the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), so that the rest make use and disuse of national waters without that the resource costs them.

We also have to:

10% of the facilities, including houses, do not have any type of treatment and the waters are injected directly into the water table, through sand filters, or taken to the mangrove area.

60% of the facilities have a Septic Tank system, either of the prefabricated type (Rotoplast) or built of concrete, these facilities treat the sewage and inject the gray water into the groundwater table.

30% of the facilities of the so-called hotel zone of Tulúm, have mixed systems, integrated by Septic Tank (primary) and Artificial Wetland (secondary) - Source: data compiled by the author 2010

Normally the most common way to evacuate domestic wastewater is by discharging it into a sanitary sewer system. However, the Tulúm hotel zone lacks a drainage system as it is normally known. In such cases, it is necessary to install specific evacuation and treatment units to avoid contamination of the drinking water supply sources, whether surface or underground. In this sense, the treatment system based on septic tanks, which includes the septic process and the oxidation process, are an option to solve the aforementioned problems.

One of the purposes of this article is to make a conscience call to the environmental authority and the hoteliers and restaurateurs in the hotel zone of Tulúm, in order to somehow minimize the contamination of national waters, whether surface or underground, Therefore, it is necessary to point out the problems generated by bad designs and bad solutions to establish minimum specifications in the manufacture of manufactured and prefabricated septic tanks, in order to achieve a sustainable use of said waters.

One of the important aspects that are not taken into account in this area is that:

1.- There are no criteria for the construction of treatment systems

2.- Appropriate studies are not carried out to see what type of system is adequate according to the problem, and the real needs of the facilities

The septic tank system is a good primary treatment system but elementary criteria must be followed and according to the official Mexican standard NOM 006 CNA-1997, where:


1.- The working capacity of the septic tank must be determined according to the number of users to be served, the capacity can be covered by one, or by several units installed in parallel.

2.- The volumes of water to be moved, per user, must be taken into account

3.- The septic tank must have, at least, a record for its inspection and cleaning. The register should be located at the top of the septic tank

4.- It must be taken into account that the septic tank is a primary system that collects black water, and transforms it into gray water, so that it must be preceded by a tertiary system to treat gray water

The conventional septic tank system has been the most commonly used technology for sewage treatment. This system uses gravity to treat and distribute sewage on the ground. Septic tanks are inexpensive and require minimal maintenance, which is generally limited to periodic pumping of the septic tank.

The conventional septic system flows by gravity and usually consists of a series of tanks or a tank with compartments, followed by a distribution system. Septic tanks are used to settle solids and partially treat sewage before it reaches the distribution system. The distribution system can be one of the underground drainage field options or a constructed wetland. These consist of gravel-filled pits, plastic chambers, or plastic pipes installed underground to hold the sewage out of the tanks until it can seep into the surrounding soil.

The land provides most of the sewage treatment. Soil particles filter organic matter and solids from sewage. The microorganisms that live in the soil process the solids and kill the bacteria and pathogens that the sewage contains.

The size of the tanks and the distribution system is based on the number of bedrooms in the house and the type of soil on which the distribution system is installed.

Advantages

The conventional septic system that flows by gravity is usually the most economical system to install and operate for the disposal of the sewage produced in the house.

Disadvantages

Conventional gravity septic systems cannot be installed in clay soils, soils with shallow subsoil, rocky soils, soils that become saturated with water during the rainy periods of the year, or in soils with a high hydrostatic level. A two foot separation should be maintained between the bottom of the distribution system and saturated soils or restrictive soils such as clay or rock.

In Tulum what are the problems.

Prefabricated pits.

1.- Septic tanks are purchased without taking into account the capacity of the system in relation to the maximum peak of users

2.- Untrained personnel are hired for the installation of the septic tank, who generally make mistakes in the assembly and start-up process

Manufactured septic tanks.

3.- When they are built septic tanks, personnel are generally hired for their construction without criteria, without knowledge, or experience in the assembly of this type of facilities, generally they respond to empirical knowledge

4.- The designs are directed more to saving materials and resources, than to comply with the regulations for the design of this type of system

Many of the Tulúm facilities, in the coastal zone, began with treatment systems that covered the daily discharge of wastewater for the number of tourists and employees who occupied the facility. Over time and with the bonanza of the area, the number of tourists grew and the facility grew proportionally and with it the number of employees to provide a better service, but no one took into account that the treatment system had to grow proportionally according to the number of guests and employees.

This undoubtedly means that by increasing the flows to the treatment system, the retention times of the black water (72 h / minimum) for the organic matter to be oxidized by the microorganisms, decrease; so that water, due to the low capacity of the system, enters and leaves without being processed, which means that raw sewage is being discharged and this generates pollution and problems in the medium and long term.

What do we face ?:

1.- The regulations are not taken into account for the implementation of a good sewage treatment system

2.- Little demand from environmental authorities,

3.- The exact environmental problem in this sense is unknown, but it is known that it is increasing

4.- Ignorance by hoteliers and restaurateurs of what type of system to install for the sanitation of their waste, poor orientation

5.- Inadequate designs that do not solve the problem

6.- A flow study is not done

7.- There is no monitoring of the quality of the treated water by the responsible institutions

Consequences in the medium and long term.

1.- Raw wastewater is discharged into the environment, without treatment

2.- Bad odors are generated

3.- The water table is polluted

4.- Due to the proximity of these facilities to the coastline, all untreated wastewater goes to the groundwater table and from there to the beach and coral reefs

5.- The water extraction wells are contaminated, which leads to gastrointestinal diseases

6.- Decrease in the operability of the facilities

7.- Expenses in: the repair and / or redesign of the system

8.- Decrease in the flow of tourists to the area

9.- Irreversible damage to reef ecosystems

10.- Deterioration of the quality of the beach

11.- Bad image of destiny

Juan A. Acosta Giraldo - Doctor in Biological Sciences - GRUPO Consultor DISAM SA de CV


Video: $200 Septic Drain Field Repair for Beginners (May 2022).