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Jaco in hot water about untreated sewage run-off

Nov 18

Two months ago, a report was released by the government citing Jaco Beach has having a bacteria count of coliforms multiple times higher than acceptable for human bathing. Many people who live here already know this is a problem since they can smell the raw sewage as they walk by the rivers or over the bridges on a daily basis. Furthermore, business owners and homeowners are not surprised by this report since they know themselves to be pollutors and/or contributors. More so, Costa Ricans know very clearly where the pollution is coming from as noted by the Sala IV in 2007.

The problem is further exacerbated by local business advocates focusing not on the report but that the report was published with alterior political motives. Translated: They are not denying the reports of “Aguas Negras” or “Black Water” but fuming about how the report was published and its timing. Nobody seems to focus on the real issue which is lack of enforcement for existing laws.

Currently, there is one inspector for about 400 septic treatment plants in this area and once cited the violator has XX months to correct the problem. When the inspector returns to check on progress, who has oversight of the inspector? When you pay minimum wages to an inspector, the lure of pay-offs to look the other way from larger developers is huge. People cannot deny that payoffs occur and in fact exists and happen on a daily basis.

One leading local business leader says “control the rivers and we will control the pollution.” This might be true but it still does not address the root problem which is education and enforcement of existing laws. How can a law be enforced if the penalty is not a deterrent? When a developer spending millions of dollars to build pays only hundreds for a penalty, it makes good business sense to move the project along without regard to preserving the enviroment or minimizing the damage.

Until Costa Rica suffers a loss of tourist dollars, which is forthcoming, the governement will not move to correct these issues. Costa Ricans never created parks or bio-zones because they wanted to preserve their beautiful country, business leaders and foreigners did this to create opportunities. The opportunity to be the “green” tourism destination was a economic decision not a altruistic one. So when the country begins to lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year in tourism because people finally have witnessed the hypocrisy of this country. Only then will the government and the business leaders move to correct the issues.

The sad truth is we do not have to wait until then, If people were to understand that preserving their country and not polluting it, means a better future for them and their families. Or their health will be much better if Costa Rica remains clean, then we will really begin to make REAL changes here. The false promises of business leaders, government, and developers is short sighted and dollar related. True fundamental change begins with each person living in the country, each persons decision not to pollute, and each persons committment to a cleaner and safer home for all of us. This can only be achieved through education and massive public service announcments.

Two years ago, a sign was erected on the highway that leads to the central pacific beaches from San Jose. The sign was titled “Playa Limpia” or Clean Beach, and discussed how we need to keep our beaches clean for us and others and for the environment. It was a great public service, the problem is ticos erected the sign and could only be seen by people returning to San Jose after they have spent the weekend littering the beaches and towns. Common sense tells most of us, the message should be delivered prior to arrival at the beach. Imagine in the US Parks, you are leaving Yosemite during the dry season, upon you exiting the park, you are given a message that using fire is prohibited.

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