Nakuru facing tough, costly decisions on sewerage services

A pupil cross drainage system mixed with stormwater and raw sewer at Mwariki estate, in Nakuru town. Sewer connectivity in the cosmopolitan town was connected during the colonial era, that is now overstretched as a result of increased population on September 9, 2019. [Harun Wathari/Standard]

For more than four decades, wastewater from thousands of homes, businesses, and schools in Nakuru town has been making its way to the Manyani and Langa Langa sewer treatment plants.

Now after years of population growth and the anticipated elevation of Nakuru to city status, the Nakuru service-run plants are at crossroads, and the sewer customers in densely-populated estates risk contracting diseases due to the poor state of the infrastructure.

Access to services

According to statistic from Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company (Nawassco), less than 300,000 of Nakuru’s estimated one million people have access to sewerage services.

Households generate approximately 300 million litres of waste in a day but the town faces a major challenge in disposal, as only residents living within Milimami, Langa Langa, London, the Central Business District (CBD), Racecourse and Freehold estates have access to the service.

These estates were connected to the sewer line between 1952 and 1972 when Nakuru town had about 20,000 to 30,000 people. Currently, the population has almost hit the one million mark.

27 per cent

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This accounts for only 27 per cent connectivity of sewer services. Access to improved sanitation facilities is low, with 46 per cent for Nakuru town and 53 per cent for Nakuru County, according to Nawassco.

“High population has overstretched our sewer lines. We are using an outdated sewer line connected in colonial-era that either blocks or breaks because of pressure,” says the company in charge of sewer services Paul Kihumba.

Mr Kihumba admits that the fast-growing urban centre faces a sewer challenge.

Most urban low-income areas of the county are also poorly planned and sanitation infrastructure is inadequate.

Out of the existing toilets, 51 per cent are unimproved pit latrines. Due to the town’s sandy soil, pit latrines contaminate groundwater through faecal sludge and urine that percolate to the groundwater table.    

Due to the strain on the existing sewer infrastructure in the town, sewer bursts are the order of the day.

“Every time it rains, water mixes with raw sewer and drains into our residential homes, a problem we have suffered over the years,” says Zipporah Mwaniki, a resident of Mwariki estate.

Ms Mwaniki says despite numerous complaints to various Government agencies and local political leaders, no action has been taken to guarantee their safety.

The resident claims that they risk contracting diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhea as the waste runs through pipes that supply water within the estate.

The challenge is evident in Mwariki estate - where broken sewer lines that discharge waste to the drainage system are the order of the day.

The waste flows to an open field that borders at least 100 houses.

The waste flows to a two-acre field where it has stagnated and produces a foul smell.

Surprisingly, children play with stagnated effluent after school unaware of health risks.

Sell foodstuff

Small-scale traders also sell foodstuff, including vegetables and roasted maize, on top of the drainage system that carries waste mixed with rainwater from the sewer line.

Despite dangers they are exposed to, the locals seem ignorant.

“Where would I sell my foodstuff if not here? We are used to such kind of environment. Today is better because of rains as the waste is not flowing in large volumes,” said Miriam Wangui, a sukuma wiki vendor.

Another local, Benson Gichuru, 45, told The Standard when he settled at the estate a decade ago, there was no problem of sewer leakages.

Locals began reporting the problem about eight years ago.

The sewer and drainage system, Gichuru says, are connected from estates on the upper part of Nakuru town.

He accused Nawasco and the county’s leadership of failing to get a lasting solution on sewer and drainage.

“We fear that without proper plans of handling the sewer and drainage, we might continue experiencing the menace of waste flowing into our homes. This is a pathetic state that should be addressed in plans of having a city,” he said.

Nothing much

However, Kihumba said there was nothing much Nawassco could do, apart from maintaining sewer lines and unblocking a number of lines to ensure people reside in a safe environment.

Rehabilitation of sewer lines was done between 2008 and 2010, connection done at National Council of Churches of Kenya, Mwariki, Central Business District, Siaya Road within London estate and Njoro sewer (Shabab).

County Chief Officer of Health Samuel King’ori said the county was working with various stakeholders to ensure sewer systems and drainage were fixed.

Reported by Mercy Kahenda and Amos Lumbasi.

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NawasscoSewerage servicesLee Kinyanjui