27 Feb 2004

Rarotonga targets sewage treatment in lagoon pollution battle

4:24 pm on 27 February 2004

The Cook Islands' capital, Avarua, is preparing to enforce tougher sewage treatment rules that it hopes will clean up polluted foreshore and lagoon areas.

Ian Karika, the chairman of the Rarotonga Environment Authority, says new regulations will require on-site secondary treatment in certain areas, and eventually throughout Rarotonga.

Ian Karika says septic tanks remove most solid material but dissolved salts, such as nitrates and phosphates, are still able to drain into lagoons which then become polluted with algae.

Ian Karika says people recognise that if tourism is to thrive, sewage treatment systems need upgrading.

"Because there's no centralised system here on Rarotonga eveything has to be treated on site, so each individual household, each individual hotel, has to adequately treat their own waste."

Ian Karika says the 3-thousand dollar cost for most households isn't much higher than the cost of three-chamber septic tanks, and government assistance may be available.

Hotels, however, will face much higher costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with the regulations, which are expected to be in place by July.