GOROKA residents are being exposed to great risk of cholera and dysentery because of untreated sewerage being dumped into nearby creeks.
Residents and community leaders including executives of Apoga Community Health Concern Group at the Fimito Road sewerage plant yesterday approached The National with concerns about their exposure to diseases.
They said they were at risk as chemical treatment plant and instruments at the four treatment ponds had broken down, resulting in untreated waste being discharged into the nearby creeks, waterways and surrounding areas.
Concerned residents Watruta Osi and Roy Lipu, whose homes are located less than five metres away from the black-bucket disposal plant, said when the town authorities poured raw sewerage into the plant, they were affected by the foul odour.
“Our children are always affected by diarrhoea and have worms in their stomach. Now we fear a cholera outbreak,” Mr Osi said.
Mr Lipu said they had been living in these unhygienic conditions for the past 30 years.
He added that during the wet season, human waste at the plant spilled over to the drainage and into Homate Street where cooked food vendors sell their stuff.
A long-time black-bucket carrier with the Goroka town authority, Peter Panda, said they had never been issued with protective gear like hand gloves, safety boots, masks and overalls while removing black-buckets from residents.
“I collect 16 buckets every week and dispose them without wearing any protective gear,” he told The National at the treatment plant site yesterday.
John Tutu, who treats the waste at the plant, said he put chemicals twice a day in the morning and afternoon at the inlet just to stop the smell.
“I put one full container of chemical to stop smell every morning and afternoon,” Mr Tutu said.
He has worked at the plant for more than 20 years, starting under the Works Department’s Static Plant and continuing under the current Goroka town authority.
Community leader and businessman, Francis Yarokave, said the residents were living in a dangerous environment and they were afraid.
He said that untreated sewerage from the four sewerage ponds would spill into gardens, residences and into the nearby Gerelomeka creek, affecting local people at Kafena and Fimito.
It eventually flows into the Asaro River and down to Kamaliki and Keiya areas.
Mr Yarokave said that domestic animals, especially pigs and dogs, would feed from the sewerage as the perimeter fencing had collapsed several years ago and was never repaired.
“Heavy waste from the Goroka Base Hospital is also disposed at the plant without being treated. This places us at great risk,” he said.
He said coffee quality inspectors from the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) stopped him from operating his new wet coffee factory down the Gerelomeka creek due to heavy presence of excreta in the water from the creek.
Apoga Community Health Concern Group chairman Willard Tunaoh and Mr Yarokave yesterday served a writ of National Court summons to the Goroka town authority (first defendant), Eastern Highlands provincial government (second defendant) and the State (third defendant) over damages and loss of business.
Mr Tunaoh said they suffered damages through loss of garden land, foul smell causing premature aging, premature infant deaths, loss of lives from respiratory diseases and loss of business due to the unhygienic condition of the plant.
They are seeking orders for K20 million in general damages, maintenance of the plant to international health standards or possible relocation of the plant.
Mr Tunaoh said that tests by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the Institute of Medical Research a few years ago on water near the plant showed heavy presence of human waste in the water.