A directive of the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) to create a separate Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) for all 100-bed or more hospital has created a stir in both public and private hospitals, as many are claiming that in an already space-starved city like Mumbai, treating sewage in a hospital is not feasible.
Hospital’s effluent treatment essentially involves treating of waste water and other forms of liquid waste, which includes water generated from washing floors, vehicles, or scrubbed liquid effluent. According to the CPCB, the infected sewage generated in a hospital is prone to three kinds of contamination — bacterial, nuclear and chemical wastes — which has to be disinfected at the source to avoid its mixing with general municipal waste.
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s (MPCB) sub-divisional head, Mumbai region, Amar Durgule, said the letter for setting up an ETP was sent to all the hospitals in the state around three months ago. “The CPCB gave directions that sewage should be treated in a plant in the hospital itself. We have advised that the hospitals to reuse the disinfected water in gardens or in toilets,” said Durgule.
According to experts, the CPCB was prompted to take this step after several cases of hospital sewage contaminating general waste were reported.
While CPCB aims to treat hospital and municipal waste separately, several hospitals have written to the MPCB complaining that the move is not practical. “Since our hospital is a heritage structure, we have very old pipelines which will have to be redirected towards a point for treatment. The cost of setting up such a facility could go up to Rs 60 to 70 lakh,” said Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, chief executive officer at Wadia hospital, who is waiting for a reply from MPCB for the same.
Hospitals have claimed that MPCB’s demand will pose several problems. Krishnakant Mehta, CEO of Mumbai’s Association of Hospitals — under which 40 hospitals are registered — said, “Few hospitals have technical problems in setting up an ETP. Large hospitals have several discharge lines and they all need to be directed towards one treatment point. It is quite cumbersome.”
Some hospitals in South Mumbai like Jaslok, Breach Candy, Hurkisonndas, Bombay, and Chetali already have ETP facility on their premises. However, of the 74-odd 100-plus bed hospitals in the entire city, over 70 per cent do not have an ETP facility.
A senior official in the Sewage Operations department in the civic body said the CPCB’s demand is ‘vague and not practical’. In a meeting held with the municipal commissioner, the sewage operations department clarified that setting up an ETP in civic hospitals is not feasible. “The plant needs land availability, which is a big issue. We also have to make sure that the plant is in an isolated area, otherwise the sewage’s stink will bother patients and staff,” the official said. The municipal commissioner is yet to hold a meeting with MPCB to discuss the issue.
Dr Amar Supate, Principle Scientific Officer at MPCB, told Newsline, “We cannot create an exception for few hospitals since this is a Centre-initiated direction. We did receive letters from hospitals over problems with ETP, but they will have to work out a solution on their own.”
Currently, the city has seven terminal stations where both municipal and hospital sewage is treated.