Collecting data to improve enforcement of septage disposal
In the Philippines, more than 90 percent of sewage goes untreated. Households using septic tanks pay private companies to desludge their tanks, but companies often do not haul the waste to a treatment facility or other designated place. Much of the pollution in surface and groundwater is from the dumping of untreated waste into rivers and other water bodies. The crisis faced in urban areas is a failure to track down erring private companies.
A database is needed to serve as a tool for monitoring. The first step would be to gather data from two sources: 1) local government workers collect data on the location, time and quantity of septage disposed of properly at treatment facilities. This could be done through creating an app for government employees; and/or 2) the general public providing data on the time, duration and cost of desludging services at their homes, and any disposal that they witness happening in unapproved areas, like rivers, drains and agricultural fields. This relies on random participation and would be best to include a geospatial element to track the location of households for mapping.
A database with such information at the city or neighborhood level could help the government better understand the market for septage collection, treatment and disposal. It would give DOH a tool to help build better monitoring and enforcement capacity and to identify pollution hotspots.
As a second step, the database could be used to identify communities where demand for desludging is weak, and where promotion campaigns could be used to improve septage management. The database could also be used to map out the location of customers needing desludging services in order to help service providers schedule services in or around one neighborhood in the same day, reducing operating costs.