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Costa Rica Must Fight Waters and Air Pollution

Water Treatment Facilities and Air Pollution Policies Are Necessary to Combat Pollution.

Recent studies have returned disheartening news: Costa Rica’s waters and air are polluted. In addition, though Costa Rica is known for having the only drinkable tap water in Central America, reports show that 16 percent of Costa Rican communities — 41 percent of all rural communities — live without potable water.

Jacó Beach, among others, was recently found to have fecal coliform levels high enough to cause concern, but not high enough to prohibit swimming. Unfortunately, microbiologists from the Institute for Aqueducts and Sewer Systems (AyA) recently conducted their own study and determined that Jacó’s waters are not fit for swimming.

Four sections of Jacó Beach show extremely high fecal coliform levels, at 675 CF/100 mL. To combat this problem, the Ministry of Health has intensified cleanup programs in Garabito canton, where Jacó is located. In addition, inspectors will be even more vigilant about Jacó’s waters and making sure policies better enforced. The area plants and developments will be held to high purification and waste removal standards.

Surely contributing to the problem in Jacó, another recent AyA study shows that only 3 percent of Costa Rica’s black, or polluted, waters receive adequate treatment. To combat this very serious problem, AyA will build a water treatment plant, ready in 2012, to treat the country’s black waters. AyA admits that the black water problem has been present for several years, though only recently has the institute had the financial resources to address the problem.

In addition, AyA discovered that approximately 16 percent of those Living in Costa Rican are without potable tap water. The vast majority of those affected live in rural communities, of which only 59 percent report having potable water. AyA hopes to find solutions to this problem, and says that by 2015, 100 percent of Costa Ricans will have access to potable water in their homes and businesses.

In further bad environmental news, the National University’s (UNA) Program for the Improvement of Air Quality reports that Heredia province, just north of San José, has the most polluted air in the country. For example, air contamination in the Flores City is reported at 58 micrograms per cubic meter; the World Health Organization established that 50 micrograms per cubic meter should be the maximum permitted contamination level.

UNA’s experts concluded that Costa Rican vehicles should undergo more stringent annual technical review, in order to reduce emissions and therefore lower air contamination levels. In addition, a pollution plan must be established to help cities reduce their contamination levels and that also works to create policies that will help reduce emissions and encourage less urban pollution.

The city of San José’s Pico y Placa policy, which restricts vehicular traffic depending on license plate and day of the week, is one such policy that will help reduce pollution. Though it was created to reduce national gasoline consumption and daily city traffic, there is no doubt that fewer cars on the road lead to less air contamination. The law has not yet extended to other provinces, though plans to do so have been discussed.

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Written by Erin Raub

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