The Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA – Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados) has reported that the institution will install six arsenic removal plants in six communities in Guanacaste and Alajuela that are unable to hook up to other water systems. The communities’ wells are contaminated and they don´t haveclean water sources.
In an extensive interview with The Voice of Guanacaste, Carlos Vargas, director of research and development for AyA, specified that the plants will be installed in Cañas-Bebedero, Montenegro-Agua Caliente, Quintas Don Miguel-El Recreo, Falconiana-Bagatzi, Santa Cecilia and Cristo Rey, with the last two located in Los Chiles in the province of Alajuela.
Vargas assured that to date, the problem of contaminated water has been solved for 85% of affected households, which are now supplied with water that has 10 micrograms or less of arsenic per liter of water. Of the 38,678 people originally at risk, 32,670 are now receiving potable water and 6,010 still need assistance, according to the official.
Regarding installation progress, the plants are scheduled to be operating by August. Vargas indicated that the construction of housing units for the facilities is at an advanced stage, they already have the seven sedimentation water treatment systems and they have unloaded the removal equipment with pressurized filters.
Afterwards, the communities and their respective ASADAS (water and sewage administration associations) will learn how to operate the equipment. In addition, it has been planned that small laboratories will constantly measure the presence of arsenic.
When asked about possible rate increases caused by the equipment, the official said, “The institution has planned a policy, which at this moment is being analyzed and will be submitted to the communities for discussion, to determine whether there is a way to have no impact or a minimal impact on the rates and the fees that each family pays every month.”
“At some point, if we have a simpler operational solution, we will move towards it progressively and it could be that we remove the plants when we have clean water from another source that is more affordable,” he added.
AyA is also considering the construction of an aqueduct from the area known as Montaña de Agua or Epifania and connecting several communities.
“This project has been reported to the community. We’ve explained the timeline. But we have been clear to the Constitutional Court that a project of this magnitude will last three to four years for the basic studies. We cannot wait four years to resolve [the situation]. The solution will be ready for August, to start running water through the plants,” explained Vargas.
Two other communities are also progressing towards a solution for the problem. According to Vargas, they want to connect El Chile de Bagaces – with 507 residents –to the AyA system in Bagaces, which is a system of ASADAS, sharing the water flow from sources in that city. Meanwhile, Vergel de Cañas – a town of 197 people – is ready to begin pumping water from a well with uncontaminated water.