Pump repaired in 24 hours, sewage discharge stopped

By: L.N. Reklai

November 10, 2017 (Koror, Palau) Raw untreated sewage has been discharging into Malakal waters due to a broken pump at Sewer Pump Station No.2, (PS2) in Malakal, Koror.  This is the last major pump that pumps all the raw sewage to treatment plant in Malakal. Palau Public Utilities Corporation informed President Remengesau Jr. on November 7th that the quickest solution was to wait for parts for the broken pump to arrive before repair commences.

A clearly frustrated President Remengesau informed Palau Public Utilities Corporation Board and management team that the Bureau of Public Work is coming in to resolve the problem and that PPUC  should provide all assistance necessary. He further urged the PPUC Board to review and improve its operating practices to ensure this does happen again.

On November 7th, BPW commenced its work on the repair with the urging from the President to work overtime to get pump fixed. By November 8, the pump was repaired and the system was back on line.

“In order to reach the pump and broken valves, the BPW had to drain all the sewage in the well and in the pipes.  The draining task took all night to 3pm the next day after which the broken valves were removed and repaired. Reinstallation of valves and safety check of the pump was completed at 11pm on November 8. The system is back on line before midnight November 8”, said Brian Melairei, the Acting-Director of BPW.

Numerous complaints from individuals and businesses reached Remengesau including a letter from Palau Chamber of Commerce asking him to take action to prevent a potential public health crisis.

Chamber of Commerce states that direct discharge of sewage into the waters around Malakal is affecting businesses and residents in the area as well as creating public health issues.  “We sincerely hope this situation does not result in the widespread outbreak of diseases related to the exposure of the public to sewage.”

Furthermore, the problem is not an accidental failure of the pump at PS2 as reported by PPUC but a case of “willful neglect on the part of PPUC management and Board” the letter asserts.

Chamber supported its allegations stating that all the sewer pumps are designed to have two pumps, to always have a standby in case of accidental pump failure.  Chamber asserts that the two major pump stations, PS1 and PS2 have been reduced to one pump and has been that way for several years.

Additionally, it states that PPUC management was informed by project engineers last year of the eminent failures of the two pumps.  Requests from PPUC maintenance staff to upper management to address the problem were ignored said COC.

In June of 2016, the same pump failed and BPW was pulled in to resolve the issue and after recommendations were forwarded to PPUC to have redundancy for these systems.

Sources added that while this PS2 pump is fixed, PS1 pump near CIP is a problem waiting to happen.  This pump station too has only one working pump and no working standby pump.

Sources state that PPUC management cited lack of funds for the required parts and opted to wait for the completion of the KASP (Koror-Airai Sewer Project).  KASP is slated to be completed in July of 2018. In the meantime, PPUC claimed $3 million revenue surplus from its water/wastewater operations in FY 2016.