“Sanitasyon Para Sa Barangay”: Manila Water’s Experience in Septage Management


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prepared R. Baffrey*, M. Adriano** *Wastewater Operations Department, Manila Water Company, Inc., MWSS-Admin Bldg., Katipunan Road, 1105 Balara, Quezon City, Philippines (E-mail: robert.baffrey@manilawater.com) **South Septage Treatment Plant. Manila Water Company, Inc., Rambutan cor Langka Rd., FTI Complex, Taguig City, Philippines (E-mail: mel.adriano@manilawater.com) for Urban Environments in Asia, 25-28 May 2011, Manila, Philippines. organized by International Water Association (IWA).

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“Sanitasyon Para Sa Barangay”: Manila Water’s Experience in Septage Management

  1. 1. “Sanitasyon Para Sa Barangay”: Manila Water’s Experience in Septage Management R. Baffrey*, M. Adriano** *Wastewater Operations Department, Manila Water Company, Inc., MWSS-Admin Bldg., Katipunan Road, 1105 Balara, Quezon City, Philippines (E-mail: robert.baffrey@manilawater.com) **South Septage Treatment Plant. Manila Water Company, Inc., Rambutan cor Langka Rd., FTI Complex, Taguig City, Philippines (E-mail: mel.adriano@manilawater.com) Abstract Aside from providing clean and potable water to more than six million customers in the Metro Manila East Concession, the Manila Water Company also endeavors to protect human health and the environment through the effective implementation of sewerage and sanitation services. The provision of effective sanitation services is a key developmental challenge in the Philippines especially in light of the country’s rapid urbanization and population growth. In 2004, the Philippine Government enacted Republic Act (RA) No. 9275, otherwise known as Philippine Clean Water Act. Under the Act, water utilities in highly urbanized areas, in coordination with local government units (LGUs), are required to connect customers to existing sewer lines, subject to the payment of sewerage fees. In areas where there are no sewer lines, water utilities may adopt a sanitation improvement program that will regularly remove septage (the combination of sewage, scum and sludge) that accumulates in septic tanks to maintain treatment efficiency. Manila Water Company, as part of its concession agreement with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), has been very aggressive in meeting its sewerage and sanitation service targets. Currently, Manila Water employs a fleet of 78 vacuum tankers to meet the demand for desludging services. In addition to this, Manila Water constructed two septage treatment plants with a combined capacity of approximately 1,400 m3/day. To date, a total of 850,000 households have already benefited from this sanitation service. Apart from improvements in sanitation, Manila Water also increased sewage treatment capacity by converting communal septic tanks to package treatment plants, constructing combined sewer-drainage systems and expanding sewer network coverage by 20%. Experience reveals that provision of sanitation services is a cost effective solution to pollution abatement when integrated with innovative approaches and an enabling regulatory environment. Keywords Septage, sanitation, sludge, biosolids, Manila Water CompanyINTRODUCTIONBackgroundDomestic wastewater or sewage comes from the sinks and toilets of homes, and contains dissolvedand solid material composed of organic matter, oils, grease, surfactants, and garbage. In MetroManila, the most common household-level intervention utilized for addressing this waste is theconstruction of individual septic tanks (ISTs). Considered to perform “primary treatment”, septictanks treat waste via the retention of wastewater for a sufficient period of time to allow for most ofthe polluted components to settle. The treated wastewater from the surface of the ISTs, which stillcontains trace contaminants, is then allowed to overflow or discharge to either communal drainagesystems or directly to surface water bodies.The material that settles at the bottom of the tanks is defined as “septage” and materials like silt,grit, plastic, rags, scum and organic matter are defined as “sludge”. Over time, a sufficient amount
  2. 2. of sludge accumulates and needs to be removed or “desludged” so as to maintain the treatmentefficiency of the IST. This material is more concentrated than domestic wastewater and is highlymalodorous due to the presence of hydrogen sulphide and volatile fatty acids produced by thedegradation of the septage in the septic tank. If not removed at appropriate intervals, the materialdoes not only cause nuisance issues for the household, but also becomes a threat to human healthdue to potential exposure to pathogens.At the onset of the concession between the Metroplitan Waterworks and Sewarage System (MWSS)and Manila Water in 1997, it was estimated that 85% of the population were utilizing septic tanks(Manila Third Sewerage Project, 2004). Owing to the fact that a large percentage of these wereimproperly designed, constructed, and maintained, it was estimated that up to 58% of the organicload to Metro Manila’s receiving bodies of water were from these household sources (Manila ThirdSewerage Project, 2004). Organic load is typically quantified by Biochemical Oxygen Demand(BOD), which is an indirect measure of the amount of oxygen consumed by pollutants that in turneffectively reduce the available oxygen required to sustain aquatic life. In 2006, the Department ofEnvironment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimated that the service industry and householdsectors were the major contributors of BOD to the region’s surface water. (Regional EnvironmentalAssessment for Manila Third Sewerage Project, REA, 2006).Due to the organic load received from these sources, Metro Manila’s three main water bodies, thePasig, San Juan, and Marikina Rivers, are all in various states of biological degradation, ultimatelycontributing to poor water quality in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay. Although an ulitmate plan forsewerage management is aggressively being pursued by Manila Water, it is clear that septagemanagement is, and will continue to be, an essential component in addressing pollution fromdomestic sources. Figure 1. Biologically dead waterwayRationaleBefore the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997,sewerage facilities were confined only to isolated areas in the city of Manila and parts of MakatiCity, accounting for only 3% coverage. These sewerage facilities were comprised of minimal pipednetworks used to collect and transport sewarage from homes to treatment facilties before dischargeto receiving water bodies. The apparent lack of prioritization for sewerage and sanitation was dueto huge financial requirements and the urgency of expanding and increasing reliability of the waterdistribution system (Inocencio, 2001).As discussed previously, the major reason for providing adequate treatment and disposal systemsfor septage is to protect public health and the environment, as septage may harbor disease-causingviruses, bacteria, and parasites (EPA, 1994). Poor maintenance of septic tanks may cause overflowswhich may spread water-borne diseases through infiltration into water pipes in instances of negative
  3. 3. pressure, subsequently increasing the probability of human contact. Aside from the health impacts,the discharge of untreated domestic waste from septic tanks to receiving water bodies also has asocial and economic impact, as previous use of these water bodies for tourism, livelihood, andrecreation becomes severely hampered.The need for septage management is reflected in various national laws including PhilippineRepublic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act. Under the Act, water utilities in highly urbanized areas,in coordination with local government units (LGUs), are required to connect customers to existingsewer lines subject to the payment of sewerage fees. In areas where there are no sewer lines, waterutilities may adopt a sanitation improvement program that will regularly remove septage (thecombination of sewage, scum and sludge) that accumulates in septic tanks to maintain treatmentefficiency.In line with national laws and to address this deficit in sewerage and sanitation, Manila Wateraggressively pursued sewerage projects through the Manila Second Sewerage Project (MSSP) andManila Third Sewerage Project (MTSP), resulting in an increase of sewerage coverage (pipedsystems) from 3 to 23 percent. Figure 2. Sewerage Expansion Plan for the East ZoneTreatment facilities were also expanded in the East Zone from two treatment plants in 1997, to 38treatment plans in 2011. Currently, Manila Water has a treatment capacity of 135 million liters ofwastewater per day and a corresponding sewer network of over 300 kilometers. To address thoseareas not currently connected to piped sewer networks, Manila Water employs a comprehensiveseptage management plan to arrest pollution from household sources.The MTSP, which is composed of institutional strengthening, sewage management, and the septagemanagement, has allowed for numerous improvements of the provision of service to customers ofthe East Zone. Under the septage management component, a fleet of desludging tankers werepurchased and two major septage treatment plants were constructed to completely address the needfor septage services for the duration of the concession. Both facilities are currently operational andhave served a combined total of 850,000 households in the East Zone.ObjectivesThis paper will discuss Manila Water’s experience in the effective implementation of septagemanagement in the East Zone of Metro Manila, focusing on key elements of success as well asoperational challenges.
  4. 4. SERVICE AREA AND OBLIGATIONSService AreaManila Water services the Eastern portion of Metro Manila and the province of Rizal, spanning atotal area of 1,400 square kilometers and covering 23 cities and municipalities. Manila Watercurrently provides water and wastewater services to more than 6 million people in the EastConcession area, 1.6 million of which belong to low-income communities.To provide comprehensive service, Manila Water adopted a decentralized structure that subdividedthe East Zone into eight business areas comprised of Balara, Cubao, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Makati,Taguig, Marikina, and Rizal/Antipolo. This structure enables the company to have increasedaccountability and contact with customers, allowing greater opportunity to identify and immediatelyrespond to customer needs and concerns. Marikina Balara Balara Antipolo Cubao Cubao The San Juan/ Mandaluyong Eight Business Areas Mandaluyong Makati Makati Pasig / Taguig Figure 3. Location of the Eight Business Areas of Manila Water 8.8 % Domestic Customers (including low-income 0.4 % communities) Semi-business and Commercial Accounts 90.8 % Industrial Customers Figure 4. Allocation of Service Connection in terms of Rate CodesThis structure also allows for better “on the ground” coordination with customers and localgovernment units, resulting in shared ownership of water and wastewater service provision. Thishas been a key strategy in the successful implementation of non-revenue water (NRW) reduction aswell as septage management. This has been particularly beneficial for septage management, wherelimited awareness and acceptance of this service has been prohibitive in past implementation.Drilling down operations to the smallest unit, Manila Water employs innovative methods to have
  5. 5. frequent and direct contact with customers. These initiatives ultimately become the most effectivemeans of educating customers on the value and need for the septage services provided, and alsoallow for operational efficiencies that result in more rapid delivery of service and prudent resourcemanagement.Accomplishments to DateTo address septage service obligations in an already massive yet continually growing concession,Manila Water financed the design and construction of the North and South Septage TreatmentPlants (SpTPs). The North SpTP has a capacity of 586 m3/day and is located in Barangay GitnangBayan II San Mateo Rizal, servicing the areas of San Mateo, Quezon City, Marikina, and San Juan.The South SpTP has a capacity of 814 m3/day and is located in the Industrial Area of the FoodTerminal Inc. in Taguig, servicing the areas of Mandaluyong, Pasig, Makati and Taguig. These twoplants have a combined treatment capacity of 1,400 m3/day and employ state of the art process andequipment capable of treating a wide range of septage characterstics to consistenly meet the Class Cstandards specified by DENR.For the collection and transport component, the company invested in the procurement of a fleet ofvacuum trucks and accessories that allow for desludging operations in confined, over-populatedareas.Among the substantial environmental and health benefits estimated from these sanitation servicesare the following: 1. Reduction in the frequency of overflowing septic tanks; 2. Reduction of the health risk from contact with septage in drainage systems; and 3. Elimination of the indiscriminate dumping of raw septage by private contractors.SEPTAGE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMSeptage management services are comprised of the following: 1. “Desludging” or the collection of septage from individual septic tanks, 2. “Hauling” or transport of the collected septage to treatment plants, and 3. Treatment of the septage to appropriate discharge standards.Details, operational challenges, and innovations for the above are discussed in the followingsections.Collection and TransportDesluding services are performed periodically per household every five to seven years dependingon the volume of the individual septic tank. The service is provided free of charge for the firstdesludging activity, and may be availed of again by the customer within the next 5-7 years at aminimal cost.“Sanitasyon Para Sa Barangay” (Sanitation for the Community). To aid in this effort, ManilaWater implements a scheduled desludging program known as “Sanitasyon Para Sa Barangay”. Thisis a vital counterpart of the company’s “Tubig Para Sa Barangay” (Water for the Community)program that corresponds to water service delivery targeted at low-income areas of the East Zone.The per barangay innovation is key to the program’s success since it provides a more targeted andpersonal provision of service, allowing for the enhanced participation of local government units aswell as a venue to increase awareness on the value of wastewater treatment in protecting health andthe environment. By an integrated effort through the local government unit, households becomeaware of the service and oftentimes prepare in advance for service delivery.
  6. 6. Figure 5. Desludging Service to a Manila Water CustomerIssues such as customer unwillingness to avail of the service as well as logistical considerations,which includes limited access to septic tanks, are typically mitigated via the “Sanitasyon Para SaBarangay” approach. Without proper understanding and valuation of this service, certain customershave the tendency to be uncooperative when offered the desludging service. Apart from the obviousimpact this has on the health and environment, this also reduces the efficiency of collection sincethe number of households served during transport of a single vacuum truck needs to be spread overa greater area of customers. In addition to this, the time spent in attempting to convince residents onthe spot, contrasted against advanced notification, also reduces operational efficiency. Notificationand promotion through the local government addresses this concern by highlighting its community-wide impact and packaging the service as something that is essential and that shouldn’t be missedout on.Local and national level policy formulation and enforcement is also vital to this effort. It is pertinentthat residents be aware that wastewater treatment is not an option but a requirement for thecontinued protection of the environment. Manila Water continues to collaborate with localgovernments on the evaluation of potential sanitation ordinances aimed at the protection of residenthealth and local water bodies. A primary consideration in the delivery of this service is theminimization of inconvenience and cost-impact to residents.Operational Considerations. Manila Water utilizes 78 vacuum tankers to deliver septage services.These trucks have various capacities to allow for more optimization of collection operations,quantities and sizes are as follows: 51 units of 10m3, 19 units of 5m3 and 8 units of 1.5m3.Typically, larger capacity trucks are utilized for areas with wide roads and ease of access to septictanks, while smaller capacity vehicles cater to those areas with difficult or narrow access.Manila Water continually provides services in the most efficient and effective manner so as toreduce impact to its customers. As such, in septage collection and transport it is vital that theoptimum allocation of resources be planned and allotted effectively. Since a massive septagemanagement program of this nature is the first in the Philippines, it was essential that all lessonslearned and information acquired be collected, organized, recorded, and evaluated in a manner toassist in the optimization of operations moving forward. A robust database has been assembled thatallows for detailed information on per household level to be extracted prior to the scheduleddesludging service. The size and number of trucks, collection routes, time of collection andcustomer coordination are all considered in detail so as to maximize the benefit of the desludgingprogram.This planning, combined with the appropriate community coordination, allows for the correct type
  7. 7. of truck and mapping of routes, as well as advanced preparation against operational issues such asspace constraints. Ideally, the desludging customer can make adequate preparations such asproviding adequate access to septic tanks prior to the activity.Continuous technical improvement and innovation is also provided to further augment operationalefficiency. Due to the extensive areas to be served by septage management, a significant workforceis required to deliver this service. As such, Manila Water employs an integrated approach to talentmanagement that maximizes internal and external manpower to deliver on service obligations.While technical expertise and management continues to be developed and housed internally, thelabor-intensive portion of collection and treatment operations may be outsourced to provideopportunities for employment in the East Zone.Equipment innovations are also being pursued in order to increase the flexibility of the current fleetof vacuum tankers. Collection mechanisms that allow more targeted collection of only the mostpolluted portion of septic tanks is a key initiative that can greatly increase the effectiveness andefficiency of collection. In addition to this, optimum collection routes and integrated facilityutilization are also being evaluated to improved service delivery. Manila Water employs a targetedresearch and development program that aims to drive down operational costs via efficienttechnology to lower fuel and power consumption.These technical and community-based innovations have allowed Manila Water to exceeddesludging targets in its concession area. As of February 2011, 217,765 septic tanks weredesludged, benefiting 850,000 households in the East Zone of Metro Manila. 300,000 250,000 200,000 150,000 No. of Septic Tanks Emptied 100,000 No. of Households Served 50,000 0 2007 2008 2009 2010 Year Figure 6. Graph of Summary of Number of Desludging ServiceOther local water districts are planning to employ similar initiatives to comply with the provisionsof the Clean Water Act of 2004. These local water districts are benchmarking Manila Water’sdesludging program. Manila Water continues to be a resource for these communities andoftentimes provides working sessions to enhance education and awareness of septage managementprograms.Treatment and DisposalSeptage collected from septic tanks is transported to one of the two Septage Treatment Plants.These world class plants have a combined capacity that is the largest in the world, employing semi-automated treatment which involves minimal physical intervention from operators. The process isconventional yet due to the varying content of septage collected from septic tanks across anextensive service area, operational expertise is the key to guaranteeing compliance and maintainingefficiency.
  8. 8. Figure 7. Septage Treatment Process FlowTreatment Process. The first component of the process, known as primary treatment, involves theremoval of inert solids using septage acceptance units (screening and grit removal). At this stage,the major problem encountered is the collection and disposal of large quantities of solid waste thatoftentimes contain items that can damage acceptance units. Apart from this, significant quantities ofoil, grease and industrial wastewater are sometimes encountered with concentrations above theinfluent design capacity of the plant. In order to control these issues and protect plant operations,plant personnel strictly monitor all tankers to perform the remedial measures and adjustmentsrequired to mitigate damage to the plants.Secondary treatment is applied through a conventional activated sludge process that cultivates aculture of microorganisms in aeration tanks to address the organic contaminants of septage.Considered the heart of the treatment process, these aeration tanks require meticulous processcontrol and operational expertise to guarantee that optimum conditions are provided to treatcontaminants. Microorganisms eventually settle to the bottom of the tanks as “sludge” while theclear water above overflows for final disinfection prior to discharge. Figure 8. Aeration Tank at South Septage Treatment PlantSludge is further dewatered via addition of polymers and mechanical compaction for stabilizationand subsequent reduction of volume. The dewatered solids or “biosolids” are then transported toLahar (volcanic ash) areas in the north for the primary purpose of soil conditioning. In 2009,
  9. 9. Manila Water generated 29,635 cubic meters of biosolids to assist in the rehabilitation of farmlandsin Central Luzon which were affected by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Through this approach,Manila Water not only provided an economical and environmentally-sustainable method ofbiosolids disposal, but ultimately delivered employment and agricultural benefits to a severelydisaster-stricken area.Manila Water is also currently developing an enhanced management strategy for this material,researching on viable technologies and operational schemes that can maximize the value of thisresource. Figure 9. Biosolids from SpTPs are transported to Lahar AreaOperational Expertise. Operations and maintenance for these plants are performed according toworld-class standards, with one of the plants being certified under International Organization forStandardization (ISO) in 2010 and the other currently undergoing similar certification. Throughoperation of these facilities, Manila Water has developed a unique operational expertise that appliesboth technical and non-technical solutions to address a variety of wastewater in an efficient andcost-effective manner. In line with this, one of the most significant accomplishments with regard toseptage management is the development of Manila Water’s workforce into technically proficientpersonnel capable of operating wastewater facilities with minimal supervision. Each plant managerand operator is trained to be completely accountable for the area to which they are assigned,ultimately developing a true “owner’s” mentality in plant operations.This integrated operational approach maximizes the skill and geographic locations of personnel.While operators and plant managers are accountable for centralized treatment facilities, desludgingmanagers located strategically throughout the eight business areas are responsible for thedecentralized collection of septage from individual households. Key management expertisecombined with appropriate allotment of manpower for labor-intensive activities, provide ManilaWater with a flexible structure that allows for the targeted implementation of septage services.Monitoring and EvaluationTo assess the performance in implemeting it septage management programs, the company put inplace a performance measurement system that is anchored on quantifiable, measurable, specific andrealistic performance metrics. These are drilled down to the lowest operating unit. This systemprovides a structure of accountability but also allows for a heightened analysis of operational targetsand efficiencies. Some of these common metrics are listed as follows:  Service Levels: Coverage Area, Population Served, Households Desludged  Operational Efficiency: Unit Costs for Desludging, Hauling, and Treatment  Customer Service: Response TimeUltimately, the MWSS Regulatory Office, DENR, and Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA) provide and enforce wastewater standards for treatment operations and facilities. Since
  10. 10. commissioning, Manila Water’s septage treatment plants have been compliant with these standards.Manila Water also endeavors to work closely with these agencies towards the ultimate goal ofrehabilitating Metro Manila’s water bodies: Marikina, Pasig, San Juan Rivers, Laguna Lake, andManila Bay.Cooperative Policy Formulation and Insitutional Awareness CampaignsIn the Philippines, the solution to wastewater management is shared across various stakeholders.While it is the concessionaire’s obligation to provide sewerage and sanitation services, these canonly be provided effectively within an enabling and supportive regulatory framework. Such aframework needs to be strong, with clear accountabilities from the national to local governmentlevels. The need for these services needs to be clearly comunicated to residents of Metro Manilaand tied to the ultimate benefit to health and the economy.Education and awareness are key to wastewater management, only with comprehension andinterventions on the household level can the true value of these services be realized. Recognizingits role in this effort, Manila Water has intensified educational campaigns through the “Lakbayan”or “Water Trails”, program which now serves as the primary tool for educating more stakeholderson the benefits and challenges of water and wastewater service provision. Apart from this, theManila Third Sewerage Project also has an institutional awareness component which targetscommunities where implementation of wastewater facilities is imminent.These education and awareness activities, combined with a collective effort to develop and enforceinstitutional policy, can greatly assist in the rapid implementation of effective wastewatermanagement for Metro Manila.CONCLUSIONManila Water has demonstrated that a septage management program is a viable method ofaddressing pollution when applied with decentralized customer management, close coordinationwith local government units, and effective and efficient technical operations. The success of septagemanagement in this, and other similar regions, depends largely on a fully integrated wastewatermanagement plan targeted at providing comprehensive service to customers.REFERENCEBusiness Model for a Water District Septage Management Program (2010, February)Manila Water Sustainability Report 2009 Manila Water Company Inc., Manila, PhilippinesEIS, Environmental Impact Statement for Manila Third Sewerage Project (2006,February). VolumeII: EMP Summary. Manila Water Company Inc., Manila PhilippinesREA, Regional Environmental Assessment for Manila Third Sewerage Project (2006, February).Manila Water Company Inc., Manila PhilippinesInocencio, Arlene B., Cristina C. David (2001, August). Public-Private-Community Partnerships inManagement and Delivery of Water to Urban Poor: The Case of Metro Manila. DISCUSSIONPAPER SERIES NO. 2001-18, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.DAO 35, DENR Administrative Order No.35 (1990). Revised Effluent Regulations of 1990,Revising and amending the effluent regulations of 1982