It’s an issue that will eventually be addressed in the Mei te Vai kie te Vai project which is looking at sewage disposal as part of an overall long-term plan to improve the health of the lagoons on both islands, at a projected cost of $70 million over 10 years.
Meanwhile, now a recent visitor to the island says he has a better plan to address how waste should be treated on Rarotonga, and he wants to share his expertise.
The chief executive and fundraiser coordinator for the Village School Improvement Project in Zambia, Africa, David Hawkins, has provided a draft plan of his proposal along with a letter to the editor explaining his inspiration.
In a follow-up visit to CINews this week, he provided some additional information regarding his plan.
In short, using a central processing station, based in the hills of the island, waste water would be put through a long settlement and filtration system. And the end product could be recycled back into the general water system, as currently done in large cities such as London or Paris.
If that idea wasn’t to everyone’s taste so to speak, he says recycled waste water and solids could instead be used in agriculture for irrigation and animal feed.
This is obviously after extensive processing, until the waste is free from faecal bacteria.
Hawkins says his plan would be supported by trucks, particularly servicing hotels and then businesses and private residences.
“And so you’d have this “honey tank” going along, picking up all the sewage and taking it to the settlement tank, processing it, and then the water coming through the whole system, converts the waste left over into vegetable matter, and you chop that – and it becomes animal feed.
“And the end result - the water coming out, could then go into the national water course, or for irrigation. Or you put that into big recycling tanks, and you can put it through filters, and it can then be recycled back into the general use of water – which is done throughout the world.
“Look at London, they are consuming water that has passed through one person seven times.”
Hawkins says the Cook Islands government will need to address a cleaner means to dispose of waste in future, especially with the increasing volume of effluent created by tourists needing to be processed.
“The reason for it, is the growth that you have with tourism, and the sewage system can’t cope, evidenced by trucks already going around – emptying septic tanks, and dumping them at the waste disposal unit. And that is just a rudimentary settlement overflow.”
He is concerned also that under the current disposal system, waste water and effluent is pumped up on to the hills, and eventually makes its way back down again through water tables, into the lagoon and sea.
“Something has to be done about it. And that is my proposal on how to do it.”