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Villas Playa Samara Denies Contaminating Estuaries

Article and photos By Arianna McKinney

The manager of Villas Playa Samara, Phillipe Brisson, affirmed that the hotel has made so many improvements to their wastewater treatment system in the past few years that the quality of the hotel’s treated water has never been better.

This despite the perception of many in the community that the hotel could be a main source of contamination of the beach’s estuaries.

High levels of E.Coli are found in the estuaries of Playa Carrillo, as indicated in a report issued in March of 2012 by Darner Mora of Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA- Aqueducts and Sewers). Mora indicated that the estuaries of Carrillo are tested every semester and predicted that if the source is not found and corrected, the beach could be rendered unsafe for swimming in ten years.

One theory presented by community leaders as a possible source of contamination was the hotel Villas Playa Samara. Xinia Cordero Vargas, director of the Nicoya Ministry of Health, indicated that they have three volumes full of denunciations and investigations of the hotel through the years. The most recent denunciation claiming that the hotel is contaminating was attended on May 29 of this year. 

However, Cordero explained that many times the people denouncing the hotel are unable to indicate an exact point of contamination and the hotel is very ample, making it difficult for the Ministry of Health inspectors. When they have inspected the hotel, Cordero said the points they have tested were not positive for contamination. 

Mora confirmed that the hotel’s wastewater treatment system has been analyzed.  

In a report by Mora dated March 7, 2008, for example, the water samples tested fulfilled most of the norms, including that of E.Coli. The only value that was found to be high was that of SAAM (Sustancias Activas al Azul de Metileno), so the report recommended that the hotel reduce the amount of detergents being used in their laundry. 

Nonetheless, in view of the high community perception that the hotel might be contaminating, VON arranged for a tour of the hotel’s wastewater system. 

When asked why the community might have such a strong perception that the hotel is contaminating, Brisson acknowledged that the hotel did have an issue with the way they routed their wastewaters from 2003 to 2005, during which time the waters were routed to a property across the street also owned by the hotel, which he affirmed had been approved by authorities before but was later found to be inadequate. That property is near the Sangroso estuary and mangroves. Brisson said that people might believe this is still happening but assured that it is not.

Head of Maintenance Dagoberto Niño Reyes takes a water sample from the
water pump shed.
The hotel's wastewater treatment system filters water to clean it.

Brisson said they received a sanitary order in 2004 to change the way they treated their water.  Subsequently they converted to a system of drip watering, that gradually drips treated water back into the grounds of the hotel. “That’s why our gardens are so green all the time,” he quipped. 

The hotel also has a wastewater treatment system since 1990. Although the wastewater treatment system and the pumping station are located only about 60 to 70 meters from the high tide mark, Brisson explained that this is beyond the 50-meter public maritime zone area and the property has a private title. He also affirmed that there is no way that the water could leak out of the containment area. 

Four times a year, the wastewater treatment system is reviewed by PROAMSA, a company notarized by the Ministry of Health. The May 15, 2012 report showed the water negative for E. Coli. 

Brisson said the hotel also chlorinates the water, so that once the water has passed through the treatment system it is highly unlikely that any organism would still be living in the water. 

Regarding the pipes that previously carried water from the hotel to the property across the street, Miguel Cortes Cortes, the hotel’s gardener, affirmed that he personally cut and removed the pipes in 2007. He explained that sometimes neighbors complain of a strong smell when the lagoon across the road dries up in the summer, but that is not from the hotel.

As it stands, the source of contamination remains undetermined although Mora said he believes that sources of contamination exist. 


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