x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Water system polluters face stiff penalties

Dubai's government says it is going to get tough on those who illegally dump sewage and toxic material in the municipality.

Sewage in the parking area near Oracle, I-Mate and Cisco Systems offices at Dubai Internet City.
Sewage in the parking area near Oracle, I-Mate and Cisco Systems offices at Dubai Internet City.

DUBAI // Polluters who dump sewage and toxic material in Dubai will face jail, a fine of Dh100,000 and the seizure of their truck, a municipal official said. The announcement comes as new complaints emerged at Dubai Internet City about the problem, which has recently made headlines due to sewage fouling the waters off the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. Abduldeen Saifai, the director of drainage at Dubai Municipality, said: "We are going to get really tough with the strictest of fines, Dh100,000 (US$27,000), six-month impoundment of their truck and a possible prison sentence." He said the decision was taken "after what seems to be a persistence by the dumpers to find new areas". Dubai Municipality said it was setting up a special team to help to catch tanker drivers who dump waste, and was working day and night where it was known to be happening. However, he stressed the municipality needed the help of residents. "People need to report those who dump. We can't be everywhere and know everything, but so far things seem to be improving." Some sewage tanker drivers have been dumping their waste in the city's storm water drains to avoid waiting up to 18 hours at the city's only treatment centre. People working at Dubai Internet City have complained that pools of foul-smelling, algae-infested water have formed near several of their car parks. Mr Saifai said this water was dumped in the drainage system by workers at a neighbouring building site, and not by tanker drivers, but the problem would be dealt with. "The water in DIC is not from sewage lines," he said. "The reason for algae is because it is old, stagnant water that has been dumped from a nearby construction site. "We have served them their notice." He maintained the municipality was doing all it could to keep the waters clean. Some workers at DIC say they have had to wrap plastic bags around their ankles when getting in and out of their cars to avoid contact with the water that is sometimes five inches deep. "The smell is so horrible it makes me sick; there is algae all over and floating bits in the water," said one Hewlett Packard engineer. Another HP engineer said he got to work an hour before his shift to avoid parking in flooded areas of the car park. "I get there as early as 7am, an hour before the start of my shift just to find a good spot to park my car and avoid walking through the sewage," he said. An Indian working in Dubai Internet City said the sewage had been seeping into the car park for a couple of months. "It really stinks here... sometimes the sewage is gushing out," added the 29-year-old. Lorry drivers say some among them will continue to dump illegally unless capacity at Dubai's only treatment plant is raised, The National reported last week. Al Aweer Treatment Plant sees nearly 10,000 sewage tankers lining up to empty their waste each day at its 40 sewage discharge pumps. Meanwhile, police are trying to help the municipality catch the dumpers. They will assist the special team, which will monitor manholes that lorry drivers have been using to dump their sewage. So far more than 4,000 manholes in the Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim areas have also been welded shut to deter dumping. Earlier this month, the Dubai Offshore Sailing club suspended all sailing and closed its beach because of the polluted water. The nearby beach remains closed, although it appears that no more sewage is pumped into the harbour. The municipality has also set up a telephone line, 800 900, for residents to report offenders. shafez@thenational.ae