From portable toilet hire to septic tank servicing and packaged wastewater treatments plants, Sanitech is South Africa’s largest sanitation company and operates across the entire sanitation value chain. Kirsten Kellyspeaks to Robert Erasmus, managing director of Sanitech, about the company’s latest onsite sanitation innovation.
“Our business is less about products and more about servicing. While most companies focus on either providing a sanitation solution or servicing and maintaining onsite toilets, Sanitech does both. We understand the complexities in both the provision, installation and maintenance of sanitation products,” explains Erasmus.
Servicing pit latrines
When requested by municipalities, Sanitech services ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines. The dry consistency of sludge and the high rubbish content that is found in many pits can present obstacles to vacuum removal. While pit latrines are estimated to last between eight and ten years, they are often the only discharge point for a household and are therefore filling up between two and three years.
According to Erasmus, emptying pit latrines is a lengthy, difficult process that requires two to three steps to try to remove household rubbish and then return the sludge to a liquid form. “Very often, municipalities opt to close the pit and dig a new one, and that has serious health and environmental implications.” Another issue is that the excavation of the actual pit can be difficult due to unstable soil conditions, underground utilities and limited space. Being part of the Waco International group, Sanitech accesses the latest innovative technologies and designs from around the world. With a mission to make pit latrines more serviceable, the company has engineered a cost sensitive solution that tackles the containment of waste and the safety issues around open pits.
After years of refinement, Sanitech has engineered a suitable solution specifically for South Africa’s challenging conditions. The Khusela Dry Sanitation Tank (DST) unit ensures children’s safety and prevents them from falling into open pits. It also provides a dignified experience for residents by eliminating the smell and sight of waste. Furthermore, there is no need to excavate a pit with the Khusela DST.
The solution comprises of internals (a pedestal, a rotating bowl and a replaceable bladder) and externals (the structure containing the internals).
“The rotating bowl uses non-stick nano technology and prevents children from falling into the pit. Furthermore, large, bulky foreign objects can no longer be placed into the pit. The rubber seal around the rotating bowl significantly reduces the presence of flies and bad odours as well as the sight of waste. The pedestal has a broad footprint to house a replaceable bladder that contains the waste, making it easier to be serviced by Sanitech or another contractor. Additionally, the self-contained waste bladder protects groundwater from contamination, which is an important consideration in our water-scarce country,” says Erasmus. Sanitech have now refined the external structure of the Khusela DST. It is essentially a visibly appealing concrete structure with a door made from injection moulded plastic. The elliptical shape of the unit optimises space utilisation and bladder capacity. The roof of the Khusela DST is made of a fluorescent compound that glows at night, using the sun to charge during the day, negating the need for lights. Often VIPs are locked and cannot be serviced unless someone is present to unlock the toilet. Fortunately, the Khusela VIP has a secure service hatch that allows the toilet to be serviced from the outside. The hatch can only be opened by service teams to ensure zero exposure to waste by users and thencommunity. The Khusela DST is a cost-effective, feasible improvement to the current VIP latrines. “Sanitech has used its vast experience in the sanitation space to develop a tailored, practical, solution that addresses factors such as theft and vandalism. The Khusela DST is a substantial improvement to the VIP without incurring exorbitant expenses, while meeting the necessary criteria for safety, serviceability, and dignity. It is simple to install (local community members can be used) due to its modular design and can be retrofitted to current VIP latrines,” explains Erasmus.
“The only challenge that remains is addressing how to get this solution out to where it’s most needed, given all the hurdles currently slowing the government down in its efforts to eradicate pit latrines. If we’re to move with any kind of urgency, we must sidestep the cumbersome public sector processes as much as possible. This is where the private sector and corporate entities can play an instrumental role. Collaborative initiatives through corporate social investment (CSI) projects offer a speedier route to progress. Interest has been expressed, and we are gaining traction from the agriculture sector for their permanent field workers as well as the mining industry for CSI projects in their surrounding communities,” states Erasmus. He adds that by partnering with a reputable sanitation expert, corporates can ensure effective project execution that meets expectations and with a collaborative CSI approach. “Investing in sanitation is not only impactful with its vital role in safeguarding communities’ health and safety but most particularly for the safety and wellness of children in schools. While sanitation projects may not possess the same immediate appeal as other initiatives, directing CSI resources toward this fundamental need will ultimately yield significant and lasting positive results, going a long way toward restoring the health and dignity of affected communities. Sanitation has a direct link to water quality.” “I have some sympathy for municipalities as they are often sold the incorrect sanitation solution. They are understandably weary of adopting anything new solution. However, Sanitech is the largest sanitation company in the country, we are here to stay and have the capacity to back up our solutions,” concludes Erasmus.
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