Wastewater treatment system at Leonald Conner School fully repaired through Sint Maarten Trust Fund

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The roots of these banana trees help to absorb treated effluent from Leonald Conner Primary School’s wastewater treatment system. (NRPB file photo)

 

CAY BAY, Sint Maarten – The wastewater treatment system at the Leonald Conner Primary School in Cay Bay has now fully resumed operations, thanks to repairs through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund.   Not many Sint Maarten schools can boast of having an in-house system to treat and process the wastewater from its bathrooms and canteen. The Leonald Conner School was one of them – at least that was until Hurricane Irma devastated the island in the early morning hours of September 6, 2017. In addition to severe damage to the school’s building, the wastewater treatment plant was rendered inoperable by Irma’s catastrophic winds.

Through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, a total of 19 schools are being repaired through its Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1). Leonald Conner was one of the first three (3) schools completed under this project, which focuses on repairing hurricane damage and making the affected buildings more resilient to natural disasters.

However, the repairs at Leonald Conner went beyond the standard repairs to doors, windows, and roofs. Alongside these necessary repairs, the entire wastewater treatment system was returned to working order. The work consisted of a series of restorations to the system’s control panel, sewage water storage tank, electric cabling, pumps, float switches, external pipes, and oxygen diffusers.

The system works by collecting wastewater and neutralizing its harmful chemicals and pathogens through benign bacteria and several aeration cycles. The effluent is then released into a leach field lined with rows of banana trees. These plants absorb some of the treated discharge in their network of fibrous roots, preventing the wastewater from flowing freely on the surface.

After a successful 6-month testing period, the fully repaired wastewater treatment system was officially handed over to the Government of Sint Maarten and the management of Leonald Conner School. Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Rodolphe Samuel signed the handover documents in a small ceremony on March 6.  “Thank you to everyone involved who contributed to its fruition. It is important that every school has a proper wastewater solution. With the completion of this project, it is a step in the right direction to the schools having their own in-house wastewater treatment system.” said Minister Samuel, commending the work of all the stakeholders involved in this accomplishment.

Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran was also present at this small signing ceremony and affixed his signature to the document as well. As Leonald Conner is a public school, the operation and maintenance of its wastewater treatment system falls squarely on the shoulders of the VROMI Ministry.

Minister Doran was happy to see the completion of these repair works, emphasizing that addressing Sint Maarten’s wastewater issues is high on his priority list. “I am happy that I was able to be a part of this occasion. Part of my vision, as is incorporated in the Spatial Development Strategy, is for a strong focus to be placed on the ability be self-sustainable and ensure these strategies and practices are environmentally friendly. I look forward to assisting with more projects such as this to better prepare our children for the future”, said Minister Doran.

The Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund is not only there to repair hurricane damage, but, if even in the smallest way, contribute to St. Maarten’s Resiliency. I am pleased that we were able to repair and restore the wastewater treatment system at Leonard Conner School. These repairs are a direct result of the objectives of our projects. With the other operational repairs that were completed previously, I’m also happy to know that the school’s students and staff now have a restored sound environment in which they can learn, grow, work, and develop,” said National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) Director Claret Connor.

The Sint Maarten Trust Fund is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the NRPB on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten.