Building a sewage treatment plan is one thing and maintaining it is another, I have learned over the years.
Small communities can rarely afford the high operating costs and even less the salary of an expert to run the facility. That’s why so many stand locked up and abandoned.
So I was all ears when José Luis Zavala, a biologist at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara (UAG), mentioned to me that techniques exist for processing human waste using ponds and flowers, with no need for chemicals or expensive machinery.
A few weeks later, I was introduced to Dr. José de Anda from Jalisco’s Environmental Technology Research Center (CIATEJ). He and Dr. Alberto López-López (deceased) developed a passive system for treating raw sewage using a “constructed wetland” that was able to reduce organic contaminants and coliform counts to well within national environmental standards.
De Anda took me to a demonstration of the wastewater processing system in the small town of Atequizaya, located near Ciudad Guzman, 100 kilometers south of Guadalajara.
I had previously imagined the wetland would be some kind of swamp spread over many kilometers. To my surprise, the demonstration treatment plant consisted of a small building next to what looked like a clay tennis court minus the net.