Monday, October 4, 2010

Septic tanks in a country without a sewer system

I hate our basement. Everything about it either freaks me out or grosses me out. Or both. The termites have eaten through the ceiling (I try to forget that the ceiling down there is also the floor up in my room), cockroaches throw parties down there everynight, water from the upstairs bathroom leaks through the ceiling and drips onto the floor and, well, you get the point. Last week there was this weird smell coming from the basement. My housemate was brave enough to go check it out... I was happy to just close the door and settle on "out of sight/smell, out of mind." I knew we should've stuck to my plan as soon as I heard her screaming in disgust from downstairs. The toilet was full of sewage. We are unsure as to how long it had been there, but I would venture to say a long time. After some investigation by our staff, it was determined that whatever we flushed down the upstairs toilet, came out in the downstairs toilet, and eventually, the bathtub, which then eventually overflowed onto the floor and out into the hallway. There was something blocking the pipe into the septic tank. We were immediately told we could not use the toilet for our "big poo poo business" and "if you could just use the toilet at work, that would be great. " Now, I dont know about you, but my "big poo poo business" system does not just work from 8am -5 pm Monday through Friday. Thankfully we were able to get the key to an outdoor toilet, located across the compound, that has not been used in a loooong time. The first time we ventured out there to check things out, we went together. It made me miss my latrine in Zambia.

Luckily, the UN septic tank came and cleaned out the tank. Then the plumber came and dug up the pipe that was blocked. Turns out tree roots had grown into the pipe. Within 48 hours we were back in business. It's the fastest I have ever seen anything get fixed in Africa.

Yesterday, Giardia returned for the first time since Zambia and I have no doubts that it is related to the story above. I am now living in fear that our house is a hazmat danger zone. I am certain that the sewage was not cleaned up properly, especially after seeing the mops that were used outside drying in the sun, rather than waiting to be burned.

Even better, everyone who comes by the house now asks if the bathroom has been fixed yet. Im sure the whole WFP staff thinks that the 2 white girls have some sort of "big poo poo business" problem. They are probably wondering how we could manage to create such a mess. Embarrassing.

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