x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lone sewage plant at capacity

Sewage tanker drivers face daily queues of up to 18 hours at Al Aweer, the city's only treatment plant.

Tanker drivers often wait 10 hours or more to discharge their waste at the Al Awir Treatment Plant.
Tanker drivers often wait 10 hours or more to discharge their waste at the Al Awir Treatment Plant.

DUBAI // Sewage tanker drivers admitted yesterday that some of them were dumping waste water illegally around Dubai to avoid queues of up to 18 hours at the city's only treatment plant. The problem of illegal dumping was highlighted at the weekend when the beach next to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club was closed because of sewage contamination. Dubai Municipality warned bathers not to use the beach for health reasons and promised swift action against the offending sewage operators.

However, tanker drivers told The National the problem would continue until the capacity of Al Aweer treatment plant was raised. "It's a nightmare for us doing this job. No one can blame a driver for getting frustrated and dumping the waste illegally," said Omar Khan, who had spent 10 hours at the plant yesterday queuing to discharge his load. The treatment plant sees nearly 10,000 sewage tankers lining up to empty their waste each day. With just over 40 sewage discharge pumps, drivers say they have to wait between 10 to 18 hours to dispose of one load.

"The line is getting longer with each passing day," said Ayaz Mohammed, another driver. "The stations operate 24 hours a day but it is still not sufficient to meet the demand of the city." The drivers collect sewage water from labour camps in Sonapur, Al Quoz, Jebel Ali, Al Rashidiya and also from other locations in the city. Desperate to empty their tankers, the drivers sometimes try to overtake each other as they jockey for position in line. This can lead to street fights and even serious accidents.

"These big truck try to overtake each other and in the process hit each other and have often almost run over people," said another driver. Traffic fines of Dh500 (US$136) to Dh1,000 have not stopped them recklessly racing up to the plant. "It's a dangerous place to be at night as people just violate rules to get to the stations," he said. Drivers said that those queuing up at night often got so tired of waiting they simply disposed of the waste at the side of the road and left.

"In the night, many just open the taps and let the waste flow on the road or the parking areas. This is why there is a strong stench in this area all the time," a driver said. The municipality said its staff were now keeping a close watch on lorries dumping sewage water illegally ? which they often attempt between midnight and 5am to avoid detection - and that police were helping with the effort.

Abdul Majeed Sifaee, director of the drainage network department, said: "We will take stern action against these law breakers, including hefty fines that can go up to Dh100,000 and permanent cancellation of the vehicle licence." Sewage tanker operators added that many companies were simply quitting the business because of huge losses. "In 2006, a sewage truck would make 12 trips in a shift. Now it is just about making one trip. Businesses are making big losses in this line," said Abid Hussain of Al Jabal Transport.

"Many are so desperate to avoid losses and pay off their loans that they dump the sewage anywhere they can," said Mr Hussain. Keith Mutch, the manager of the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, called yesterday for two manholes to be welded shut after he caught sewage tankers discharging their loads into the water drainage network. The club has been heavily polluted by raw sewage and lost its Royal Yachting Association accreditation after an inspection two weeks ago. It has since regained its teaching licence.

Mr Mutch went to Al Quoz to locate the source of the pollution. "I parked some distance away and waited between the two manholes," he said. "At 21.32pm a sewage truck pulled up and waited half an hour until most of the night shift had left. It then moved over the man hole cover and discharged its load for 20 minutes. "At 11.10pm a second truck arrived and discharged its load at the second manhole.

"Again it took about 20 minutes but this truck covered its number plate with black plastic." A security guard told Mr Mutch the lorries arrived between 10pm and 2am every night. Mr Mutch added: "May I recommend the two storm water covers be welded closed as soon as possible. The security guard told me he had contacted the police on previous occasions but there was no response. During my five hours in the industrial area I never saw a police vehicle at all."

Municipality officials have asked the public to report any illegal sewage dumping by calling the free number: 800 900. pmenon@thenational.ae