In the absence of a sewage network, households in Serbia drain wastewater into cesspools without realizing how dangerous it actually is and how much it endangers them.
A cesspool is a watertight plastic tank, buried in the ground near the house, that receives all wastewater from toilets and other sources within the septic system. A cesspool has two main roles: to store sewage so that it cannot be pumped out of the septic system, and to isolate solid waste from liquid sewage so that it does not clog pipes and seep into groundwater.
According to Slobodan Krstovic, director for sustainable development of NALED, 65% of the population in Serbia is connected to the sewage system, while the rest use cesspools.
“According to estimates, we have around three million cesspools. Inadequate cleaning and neglect of these tanks can leave dangerous and permanent consequences for the environment,” Krstovic told the Blic newspaper.
Krstovic expresses the opinion that Vojvodina is particularly at risk of cesspools because it is a flat land, which is negatively affected by groundwater pollution.
“This is precisely why the limit values of groundwater pollution in Vojvodina are generally above the limits, and since it is the granary of Serbia, it is a big problem because it negatively affects the quality of agricultural products.” “Zrenjanin stands out as the town where this problem of polluted water is the most critical, but other places in Vojvodina have a similar problem,” Krstovic told the Blic newspaper.
Cesspools are taken care of by their owners, and the unwritten rule is that they should be emptied every three years. Owners often clean them by pouring mercury, which can lead to contamination of groundwater and soil with heavy metals. Such polluted water and land directly worsen the health of the population.
According to Krstovic, the solution to the mentioned situation is the “Clean Serbia” project of the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure.
“There are local governments where you have to work to build sewage because there isn‘t any.” This is the problem of rural areas, while urban areas are mostly covered by sewage. There we also have cesspools that are built according to different standards, so their safety is questionable considering that the dynamic of regular cleaning is not established,” Krstovic said.
Mixing wastewater with groundwater, in addition to the negative impact on human health, inevitably leads to contamination of a wider area.
“Such is the situation in Belgrade, where the entire left bank of the Danube is filled with cesspools. Even when these cesspools are cleaned, that waste is directly discharged into the river at Ada Huja. With the completion of the construction project of sewage networks in Serbia, in addition to the complete sewage network, cesspools in Serbia would also be regulated. Then all consumers, that is, people and the industry, where possible, would be connected to the sewage and wastewater treatment system,” said Krstovic, among other things.