January 10, 2009

Due to the ongoing Israeli invasion of Gaza, nearly 700,000 Palestinians have gone without water for days, and sewage pumping systems have stopped. In many places, raw sewage is running through the streets, and officials have warned that a massive sewage flood, like the one in 2007 that killed 5 people, could occur at any time.

One million people in Gaza remain without electricity for nearly two full weeks. The deputy director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, Maher Najjar, told Israeli reporter Amira Hass that between 40 and 50 percent of the Gazan population are now without access to water.

There are 37 sewage pumping stations in Gaza. Due to the lack of electricity, 5 of them are completely out of operation, and the remaining 32 are only partially operational.

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In March 2007, Um Al Nasser village in northern Gaza was completely flooded with sewage when a 6.5 acre septic cesspool containing 20,0000 cubic meters of sewage water collapsed, killing five people and causing hundreds to be made homeless.

Now, a similar disaster may be about to occur, on top of the military assault that has left over 800 people dead in the last two weeks. Local officials report that both fresh-water pumping systems that provide water to the residents of Gaza, and sewage pumping systems, pumping out human wastewater, are on the verge of collapse in many areas. The biggest wastewater treatment plant, in northern Gaza, was supposed to have been emptied a month ago due to the potential for flooding. Now, the risk of breakage and flooding has reached a crisis, with 10,000 people at risk if a flood does occur.

According to Maher Najjar of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, a major water pipe providing clean water to 30,000 residents in central Gaza was damaged by an Israeli air strike, and a sewage pumping station in Beit Lahiya stopped working after its generator was destroyed by an Israeli missile, causing sewage to flood the street.

In Beit Hanoun, sewage has been flowing through the street for a full week, after an intake pipe to the sewage treatment plant was hit by an Israeli missile.

In Gaza City, four out of seven sewage pumping stations have run out of diesel fuel for their generators, and are pumping sewage directly into the sea. The remaining three are dumping raw sewage onto farmland near Gaza City. Soon this sewage will be on the streets of Gaza City, unless pumping is restored.

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