Health fears as sewage is pumped near homes

Foul smells from sewage being pumped from manholes and the noise of tankers carrying away the effluent are bringing misery to residents of Al Ghadeer.

A worker disconnects hoses on a tanker after extracting sewage from a manhole in Al Ghadeer, Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Foul smells from sewage being pumped from manholes and the noise of tankers carrying away the effluent are bringing misery to a community.

Residents of Al Ghadeer, on the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have raised concerns about possible health issues caused by exposure to untreated sewage.

They were also worried about the safety of pedestrians and children in areas serviced by heavy lorries almost daily.

Ahmed Raza said lorries regularly lined up to remove sewage from a manhole opposite his two-bedroom flat.

“The smell from the manhole is not bearable at all,” said Mr Raza, 37, an Egyptian.

“Whenever we smell it we vomit. We cannot open our windows, cannot take our children outside to play. It is dangerous to our health.

“Not just that, but the noise of the pump and trucks, day and night, never allows us to rest properly. We have children and elders at home.”

South African Tani Sarvo, who lives close to Mr Raza, said her three-year-old son had been suffering from infections for the past few months, which she attributed to the sewage.

“I am afraid it is because of the smell, said Ms Sarvo, 32. “I am so concerned about my child’s health. I don’t take him out or open windows for fresh air. I don’t know for how long this will continue.”

Mr Raza said residents had on several occasions contacted the developer, Khidmah, to complain. “We contacted them many times but every month they give us the date of the sewage treatment plant starting,” he said.

“We have stopped believing them now. We are extremely frustrated with the situation and many have decided to move.”

Khidmah said the lorries were needed while work continued on the plant intended to serve the community, at the end of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road.

“The process for handing over the treatment plant to the authorities is ongoing and we are moving closer to reaching the conclusion of this project,” the company said.

“The comfort of our residents is our priority and we are working with relevant parties to ensure the resolution of this process.”

This month a sewage tanker crashed in Jumeirah Village Triangle in Dubai, spilling its cargo on to the road.

Sewage pumping exposes people to health hazards including harmful gases and infections, said Dr Venkiteswaran Ramanathan, the medical director at Aster Hospital in Dubai.

“Breathing in the infected air as dust is very harmful, unpleasant and psychologically damaging,” Dr Ramanathan said. “It can contain toxic gases from the decomposition of household waste. Insects like flies can also carry the germs while walking through sewage that has leaked. It is one of the most common ways of spreading infections.”

He said until the situation was resolved, residents should take precautions.

“Wash hands and feet after coming in contact with anything contaminated,” Dr Ramanathan said. “Use masks to cover the nose and mouth while crossing those areas.

“Protect any cut or open wound by washing and disinfecting it, irrespective of whether or not you’ve been in contact with contaminated matter because certain organisms can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth.”