Peru: new standards for effluents are insufficient while coverage remains low – expert

The Peruvian environment ministry’s (Minam) new standards for wastewater effluents will have little impact given the country’s low wastewater treatment coverage, Laureano del Castillo, lawyer and hydrological expert with the national center for social studies (Cepes), told BNamericas.

“It’s a step forward, but we still have many problems in this area, mainly the low wastewater treatment coverage. There’s very little wastewater treatment,” del Castillo said.

Currently, Peru only treats 15% of its domestic wastewater. President Alan García aims to reach 100% wastewater treatment coverage by 2015, as part of the national development plan. However, industry insiders are skeptical of the government’s ability to do so.

“Part of the problem is that the previous water quality standards were set out under the 1969 water law, which was made when cities were much smaller and the use of water was less intensive,” del Castillo said.

The new standards, approved by Minam in March, regulate the biological oxygen demand (BOD) and the presence of chemicals in effluents produced by domestic and municipal wastewater treatment plants that end up in bodies of water. The new norms set a maximum BOD value of 100mg/l, chemical oxygen demand (COD) must be less than 200mg/l, total suspended solids (TSS) must be less than 150mg/l, and a maximum limit for fats and oils of 20mg/l.

Administrators of existing wastewater treatment plants without an environmental certificate will have a period of two years to present the housing and sanitation ministry with a plan to adjust the plants to comply with the new norms. Plants with environmental certificates will have three years to present their plans.
The new standards do not apply to plants that use advanced treatment or primary treatment with final disposal through a submarine outfall.

According to the new norms, wastewater treatment plant administrators are responsible for monitoring effluents and reporting levels to the housing and sanitation ministry in line with the latter’s monitoring program

Despite government efforts, most of the work to prevent the pollution of Peru’s water resources is carried out by large mining companies, according to del Castillo.

“There are a lot of complaints about contamination from mining, and I don’t deny that there is contamination, but we must recognize the mining industry is taking corrective action,” del Castillo said.

For Minam’s full decree outlining the new norms, in Spanish, go to this link.

Read the full interview with Laureano del Castillo [BNamericas.com subscribers only]

Source: Catherine Setterfield, BNamericas.com [subscription site], 01 Apr 2010 ; BNamericas.com, 22 Mar 2010

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