Liberia: University of Liberia Addresses Burst Septic Tank Saga

Monrovia — Troubling health and sanitation situation that disrupted classes at the state-run University of Liberia (UL) main Campus is now said to be under control.

The institution's administration was quick to implement a response to the burst septic tank and sewage that was spewing out feces on the Capitol Hill campus of UL.

Learning activities were disrupted last Tuesday when feces began gushing out of burst pipes and from an opening on the walls of the septic tank.

The UL administration said it has already addressed the situation, blaming lack of modern infrastructure on its campus for what it's referred to as an embarrassment caused to students learning activities.

UL Vice President for Public Relations, Atty. Norris Tweah, told FrontPage Africa over the weekend at his office in Monrovia that most of its Capitol Hill infrastructures were constructed many years ago.

Tweah said the need to change most of these infrastructures is of concern to the UL administration, but funding to get them implemented remains a challenge.

"What happened on Tuesday is that this septic tank, which was constructed over 40 years ago, burst open."

"The university is very concerned because we teach hygiene and ways to keep the environment clean.

"Many of these infrastructures have outlived their utility value and so we are maintaining, managing them but we need a radical overhauling of these infrastructures," Tweah stressed.

He further that some of the infrastructures are so old dating back to the formation of the university in the late 19th century.

"So the environmental and human impacts and increase in student population as well as the administration capacity, are now having a toll on these very old infrastructures of the Capitol Hill campus of the university."

The UL Relations vice President noted that huge amount of investment would be needed to replace all of the outdated infrastructures, a serious challenge for the state-run institution as a result of limited budgetary support.

"To replace some of these things requires substantive amount of investments, which we certainly do not have," Tweah noted.

Tweah further stated that despite limited funding, the university has tapped into its maintenance budget responsible for emergency to address the situation.

"We did our best to fix it. Last Tuesday, it happened and we mobilized our engineers and plumbers."

"They started the work and was able to fix it; it looks normal now," Tweah asserted.

He warned students and the public to beware that some of these situations will occur from time to time as a result of obsolete infrastructures.

Tweah admitted that the Tuesday incident created a hazardous health situation for students and everyone else.

He apologized to them for the embarrassment.

"These things were constructed to serve a population of few hundreds, and now we are talking about a population of 15,000 students."

"We cannot rely on that same maintenance to cater to all of us," Tweah intoned.

On what he thinks could be a way forward in helping to address some of the issues on the main campus, he stressed the need that the university get involved with extended fund raising, since limited funding remains a challenge.

He then informed students of steps taken by them to remedy the situation, noting that measures are being put in place for a proper monitoring of the outdated infrastructures.

Maintenance of Facilities Not Enough

Lack of maintenance and misuse of facilities according to the university's engineering department head, Mr. Augustus Moore, are now resulting to infrastructural breakdown on the campus.

Moore said despite the life span of the infrastructures, a proper maintenance will help in avoiding hazardous situations that would be embarrassing to learning activities on campus.

Though he agreed with Tweah that limited funding is a major factor responsible for delay in replacing outdated infrastructures, the UL Engineer Department head wants proper care and management to be done on its facilities regularly.

"Lack of maintenance and misuse of the facilities are causing most of the infrastructure to damage."

"In the absence of funds, we must take care of what we have now.

Some of them don't take a lot of money but to just educate the student's populace on the use of these things," Moore averred

He urged that some of the infrastructures be changed in order to advert reoccurrence of similar situation.

"Every engineering system is designed for a line period, which includes population and when that is exceeded, we have to rebuild."

"So, I don't know what kind of maintenance you give it, when that period expires, you will have a failure," Moore noted.

However, Moore wants Liberians, especially engineering students to shoulder the responsibility of addressing these problems.

John Zondo, who is a janitor on the university campus, grapples with doing his sanitary works as a result of the poor nature of the sewage system.

According to Zondo, the situation occurred from a clogged "man-hole," as a result of a long existence.

"The septic tank clogged because the man-hole here is a way-back man-hole," Zondo noted.

He told this newspaper that the septic tank condition was an embarrassment not only to students but to his team as well.

Zondo now feels pleased that the UL administration came in with a quick response when he alerted them of the nature of the septic tank.

Students Feel Much Comfortable

Since the UL administration addressed the situation, students have become comfortable again to sit and passby the septic tank, which was damaged.

Nelson Kanneh, a student from the Business College, told this newspaper that the quick impact was helpful in enabling them get fresh air.

According to student Kanneh, even before feces started gushing out, it had been difficult for them to get conducive atmosphere within that terrain but the situation is now much better.

"To my surprise today, I have been sitting here for hours and can't smell any offensive odor."

"The odor from this place had been very embarrassing and made it impossible for anyone to sit here. I am feeling very comfortable right now as I sit here," Kanneh stated.

He lauded the UL administration for addressing the situation.

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