Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Septic tanks contribute to climate change - Expert

By Edmund Smith-Asante, TAMALE
PVC behind toilets in houses is common in Ghana

Emission from septic tanks is one of the key ways greenhouses gases which cause climate change, are released into the atmosphere in Ghana, a former official of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has stated.

Mr Philip Acquah, former Director of Industry and Environment, EPA, said in order to provide ventilation for the heat from septic tanks to escape, pipes are fixed on them but that also releases gases into the atmosphere.

Mr Acquah was addressing a select group of environmental journalists last Wednesday as the lead facilitator for a three-day training on climate change in Tamale.

He said; “You do your septic tank and you put a pipe on it. There are gases that come out. If you don’t get the gases out, those gases can explode at certain temperatures – It can be very dangerous. So we put a pipe there, then the gases go into the atmosphere.

“It is one of the key greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. So even in our own developmental efforts in real estate development, we must begin to think about what type of treatment plant we want to put there,” he urged.

Lessons from Asia

Mr Acquah said Ghana could learn a lot from India and Nepal or South East Asia, on how to manage greenhouse gases from septic tanks through simple methods. “They are all collecting these gases today and using them for cooking,” he said.

Speaking to participants at the workshop organised by a non-governmental organisation, Care International, he said Ghana’s policy for waste management, the National Environmental Sanitation Strategy and Action Plan (NESSAP), he recommended onsite waste treatment systems that could collect the septic gas (methane) and use as renewable energy.

Mr Acquah, who is also a climate change consultant, cited emissions from vehicles, especially those with big engine capacities, as likewise contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and thus climate change in Ghana.

“If you take a car that does 20 kilometres per gallon and a car that does 70 kilometres per gallon, the 20 kilometres per gallon vehicle would emit more gases, and that is the huge 4.0 capacity [engine], he said.

Volume of gases released

In an interview with the Daily Graphic after his presentation, the consultant stated that the volume of gases released into the atmosphere by a septic tank was dependent on the size of the population using it.

He said for a household of six people, 45m3, equivalent to a 450kg weight of cooking gas is produced a year and that is what is released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.

That means for 1,000 households of six people, an average of one thousand 45m3 weight gas cylinders could be filled or 450,000kg of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere every year.

Advancing the advantages to be derived if a biogas plant was developed, the climate change consultant said it could be used to treat all biodegradable solid waste, while the waste water could be used for landscaping.

How to prevent emissions 

On how to lower emissions from septic tanks, Mr Acquah said one of the recommendations given by the NESSAP “is that we would go into onsite sewage management that also captures the gases and use them for cooking or for power, depending on the number of people who are there, particularly in real estate development.”

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This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on June 4, 2014

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