Water covers two thirds (2/3) of earth's surface with over ninety seven percent (97%) in oceans and just three percent (3%) is freshwater from streams, lakes, aquifers and ground water, with most of it trapped in ice caps and glaciers. Less than one percent (1%) of all freshwater is readily accessible for human use. Water makes up sixty percent (60%) of our body, seventy percent (70%) of our brain and eighty percent (80%) of our blood. A human being can go almost a month without food, but you cannot survive more than one week without water.
Water pollution can be defined as any chemical or physical change in water that is detrimental to living organism.
There are two main sources of water pollution, point sources and non-point sources from which pollutants enter the environment (water bodies). Point sources are from a specific location e.g. drainpipes. They are more easily controlled because the nature of the pollutant and quantity can be easily determined. Unlike non-point source that are much harder to locate and control, it is associated with run-off from land, and has no specific discharge point.
In Trinidad and Tobago water is mostly used for domestic, agriculture and industrial purposes and our main sources of pollution are associated with them. Domestic - raw sewage and solid waste (garbage), Agriculture - run of from fields and crops containing fertilizers and pesticides. Industries - water treatment, solid waste, lubricating oils, chemicals and Oil spills.
There is a number of existing legislation for dealing with water pollution in Trinidad and Tobago below is a list of a few:
Section 29(1)(j) of the Petroleum Act (chap.61:02) provides for the making of regulations to prevent water pollution and for compensation. Regulation 3 of the petroleum (pollution Compensation) Regulations made pursuant to Section 29 (1)(j) of the petroleum Act, outlines the offences of oil pollution. Regulation 42(2)(c) of the Petroleum Regulations, requires a license to take precaution to avoid pollution of tidal rivers. Regulation 11 of Part II of the Petroleum (Testing, Storage, etc.) Regulations, prohibits the escape of crude petroleum, petroleum or dangerous petroleum stored under the regulation into an inlet or drain communicating with a public drain or storage.
Regulation 20(4) of the Drilling Regulations made pursuant to the Mines, Borings and quarries Plugging of wells that could pollute water.
Second Schedule, Part IV , paragraph 8 of the Town and country Planning Act (chap 81:01) (rev. 1980) provides that development plans can make provisions for prohibiting of pollution of rivers etc.
Litter Act (chap. 30:52) as amended by the Litter (Amendment) Act (1981), Section 3(1) states that littering occurs when a person without reasonable excuse deposits any litter in a public place other than an authorized collection point or receptacle i.e. public place which is everywhere that the public has access to including any water body. Section 2(1) of the Litter Act, premises includes natural watercourses and drains.
Section 18 (1) of the Waterworks and Water conversation Act (chap. 54:44) prohibits pollution of waters.
Public Health Ordinance Sections 36(1), 37, 55-60, 68,70 and 80- Sets our regime for dealing with water pollution.
Municipal Corporation Act (no. 21 of 1990) section 232(e) construction and maintenance of all drains and watercourses except main water-courses and highway water courses falls under the Municipal Corporation. Section 145 prohibits impeding of water courses.
Section 42 of the Water and Sewerage Authority Act (chap. 54:40) states that WASA is responsible for maintain and developing the waterworks; for administering the supply of water; promoting the conservation and proper use of water resources. Section 51(1) provisions for the making of regulations for protecting water resources from pollution.
Prevention of Water Pollution (Quare River and Valencia) Bye Laws Section 53(1) sates any person who allows to be polluted any spring, well or adit, the water from which is used or likely to be used for human consumption, or domestic purposes, or for manufacturing food or drink for human consumption can be held liable.
Standards Act No. 18 of 1997, Section 15(1) - gives power to make environmental standards.
Environmental Management Act . Section 52- Management of Water Pollution
- The Authority shall, as soon as practicable after the commencement of this Act, investigate the environment generally and such premises and vehicles as it thinks necessary for the purposes of
- ascertaining the extent of water pollution and significant sources of water pollutants;
- characterising or describing that pollution
- The Authority shall cause a register of water pollutants to be maintained as prescribed by rule, which shall contain data identifying the quantity, conditions or concentrations relevant to the identification of each pollutants.
- The Authority shall develop and implement a programme for the management of such pollution which shall include the registration and further characterisation of significant sources of any ongoing or intermittent releases of water pollutants into the environment.
Section 53 - Water pollution Permits
- The Authority may require and grant permits to authorise any process releasing water pollutants subject to such terms and conditions as it thinks fit.
- The terms and conditions of a permit may relate to the design, construction, operation, maintenance and monitoring of the facilities and processes releasing water pollutants.
- A person shall apply to the Authority for the grant of a water pollution permit in accordance with the form as determined by the Authority.
Section 54 - Prohibiting Water Pollution
No person shall release or cause to be released any water pollutant into the environment which is in violation of any applicable standards, conditions or permit requirements under this Act.
Water Pollution Rules 2001. Section 4(5)
Unless otherwise authorized under sub-rules (1), (2) and (3), no person shall allow the release of a water pollutant from a registrable-facility.
Section 4 (6) - Sub-rules (1) and (2) do not apply to
- operational releases from motor vehicles;
- releases from households except where such households contain industrial or commercial facilities; or
- releases authorized by a competent governmental entity into sewerage facilities owned or operated by such competent governmental entity.
Section 5. Prohibition against release of water pollutants. (1) A person shall not release a water pollutant into any water approved by a competent governmental entity for human consumption without treatment or where treatment has been limited solely to disinfection.
(2) A person shall not release a water pollutant into groundwater where
- the groundwater is vulnerable to contamination because of the hydrological characteristics of the area under which the groundwater occurs;
- no alternative source of drinking water is available to substantial current or future populations;
- the aquifer provides the base flow for a sensitive ecological system;
- the release of a water pollutant may destroy a unique habitat; or
- the groundwater is a current or potential source of drinking water or has some other beneficial use.
The water pollution rules 2001 was laid in the House of Representatives on 20 September 2001 and later in the Senate on 29 September 2001 but did not go through the entire negative resolution process so the EMA has not treated the rules as law.
Monitoring of water quality in Trinidad and Tobago has been given low priority and there is no coordination between agencies.
Problems associated with enforcement of legislation are as follows:
Insufficient resources - financial resources for facilities, man power, laboratory equipment and research,
Number of enforcement agencies in Trinidad and Tobago is great; this creates problems with overlapping of jurisdiction and lack of co-operation between agencies.
Lax attitude and corruption - little or no enforcement actions initiated under the various pieces of legislation and allegations of corruption with non-enforcement of relevant laws even though there has been no proof of misconduct the initial allegations are a matter of concern.
Lack of punitive sanctions - the penalties for breaking the law are so low that it appears to be more cost-effective to break the law and pay the fine than to stop from breaking the law.
Limited public education programs -minimal or no public awareness of the harmful effects of human behavior on the environment.
Trinidad and Tobago must reduce the volume of pollutants entering its water bodies, more enforcement of existing legislation and public awareness on the importance of conservation. We all need water to survive so why pollute our most basic need.
- Ramlogan, R. and Persadie, N., 2004. Developing Environmental Law and Policy in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago: Lexicon Trinidad Limited.
- The Water Pollution Rules, 2001 (s 4(5-6) and 5), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Environmental Management Act, 2000 (s 52-54), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Water and Sewerage Authority Act, (rev. 1980) (s 53), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Public Health Ordinance, (rev. 1980) (s 36(1), 37, 55-60, 68, 70 and 80), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Municipal Corporation Act, 1999 (s 145), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Petroleum Act, (rev. 1980) (s 29(1)(j), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Litter Act, (rev. 1980) as amended (Ch. 30:52), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Highways Act, (rev.1980) (s 36(3)), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Town and Country Planning Act (rev. 1980) (second Schedule, part IV, clause 8), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- Drilling Regulations made pursuant to the Mines, borings and Quarries Act (rev.1980) (Reg.20(4)), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- The Waterworks and Water Conservation Act (rev.1980) (s 18(1)), Trinidad and Tobago: Government Printer.
- Gobin, J., 1999. Land Based Marine Pollution in Trinidad and Tobago. Sunday Guardian, 6 June.