In a country where there is a wide gulf between the rich and the middle class, living in highbrow areas like Lekki, Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos is a sign of better life.
The belief of many residents of the Lagos mainland is that those in these parts of the city are living large. This is more reinforced by the fact that the crème de la crème of the country have their homes in these places.
If one is to suddenly relocate from the mainland to either Ikoyi or Lekki, the belief is that providence has suddenly smiled on such individual.
But living in these areas has its downside.
A new finding has revealed that residents who use water from boreholes constructed within their compounds in these areas might unknowingly be drinking or using water contaminated with their own human wastes.
PUNCH was on a finding mission on the impact of human waste disposal in the Lagos Lagoon when the fact came to light that the construction of septic tanks in these highbrow parts of Lagos was not a good idea.
The Coordinator of the Lagos State Wastewater Office, Mr. Lekan Shodeinde, told our source that the water table in these areas was too shallow, which is why the construction of both septic and borehole in the same compound is a dangerous affair.
Shodeinde said, “A lot of houses in areas like Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki are polluting the water table.
“Those areas are not supposed to put in place septic tanks. In some of these areas, before you dig five feet, you have reached the water table. Now, imagine going to such places to put in place septic tanks which are constructed in such a way that the waste seeps into the ground.
“They are simply soiling the water table. These areas are supposed to have a centralised wastewater treatment where the effluent emanating from households passes for treatment.”
This is the practice in many developed countries where centralised sewers are put in place to cater for the management of human wastes generated from each home.
According to Steven Burian, Stephan Nix and Robert Pitt in their study on Urban Wastewater Management in the US, the centralised system of management of wastewater has been in existence in the country since the middle of the 19th Century.
Reporters spoke with a bricklayer, who explained that a standard septic tank could be as deep as 10 feet. Considering the fact that the water table in these coastal areas is comparatively shallow, it is possible that contamination occurs to groundwater sources in some of the places.
Experts say there may be considerable hazard for those who use water sourced from boreholes directly in these areas, or those who do not have water treatment facilities or filters in their homes.
Prof. Ebenezer Meshida of the Geoscience Department of the University of Lagos, who also teaches at the Civil Engineering Department of the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, said the type of water one can get in most parts of Lekki, Ikoyi, Ajah and Victoria Island, is highly contaminated.
He said, “The water in the region is not expected to be used as drinking water. That type of water can be used to clean your car or flush the toilets. Any water you get around five metres depth is highly dangerous.
“The type of water that is fit for consumption in that area should be obtained from boreholes that are very deep, deeper than third water level. Those who are experienced in drilling boreholes understand that at the third water level, you get fresh water. Sometimes you get to 200 metres or 300 metres before you can get drinkable water but some will say it is too expensive.
“Those who build houses in that zone of Lagos must be people with millions of naira in their pockets because it is not a zone that is good for extracting drinkable water.
“What is usually obtained there is salty or polluted water. Most of the diseases people fall prey to in Lagos are from polluted water consumption.”
But what can be done by those who already have shallow boreholes in these areas?
Prof. Meshida said boiling of the water is an age-old system that still works fine.
He said, “Boiling is the first stage of treatment. You can then filter after that. In those days, we made use of filters that used candles. If you boil water from whatever source it comes from and you filter it with a cloth and put it in the candle filters, you can be sure you are safe.
“I will suggest that anybody who wants to drink water sourced from shallow boreholes in such areas should go to environmental chemists. They are in university chemistry departments. They will help to analyse the water. They will be able to identify the chemical composition and determine the best way to treat the water.”
A borehole contractor, Mr. Elijah Idowu, who runs Noble Fourstar Hydro Resources, explained the process it takes to reach a depth where drinkable water can be extracted in the Ikoyi-Victoria Island-Lekki zone.
He said, “Digging borehole is never a child’s play in that zone because you will be talking of about 500 or 700 metres before one can reach a drinkable water depth.
“If an average depth borehole is about N500,000 in another place, you will be looking at about N7m to dig a borehole in a place like Lekki or Ajah.
“What we do usually is that we screen and case the contaminated water part of the hole so that this does not affect the fresh water we reach at the deeper part. Even with that, it is still advisable if the residents install facilities which they can use to filter the water before consumption.”
The Lagos Water Corporation has always discouraged the sinking of boreholes in the Lagos metropolis but in a city where a large percentage of the residents do not have easy access to pipe borne water, this may be a futile plea.
The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, has also expressed concern over the proliferation of boreholes in the state, saying they constituted long term environmental problem.
In a publication by PUNCH in February 2012, the governor said the residents of the state were better off with more water works than more boreholes in their different houses.
He urged the residents to make use of domestic connections to their homes wherever there is a waterworks, saying government would continue to build waterworks to bring water close to various homes in the state.
Speaking with some residents of these upscale areas, it turned out that the situation was more pathetic than most people would imagine.
Those who spoke with our source at Victoria Island, explained that the water they get from their boreholes is so bad that it is sometimes totally unusable without being treated.
At Idejo Street, Victoria Island, a house guard, Henry Okoro, went inside his compound and brought out a bowl of water. It looked like one in which brown clay had been dissolved.
“This is the kind of water you get from the borehole here,” he said.
He said a tanker supplies the house with water from another part of Lagos every week.
“Some of these tankers collect N10,000 per supply, some N8,000,” Okoro said.
At Osapa London area of Jakande, Lekki, a resident, Oyebola Ogunsanya, said even though she did not know that septic tanks pollute the water table, she and other residents were not bothered because the water in their borehole is not usable.
She said, “The water in the borehole is like the colour of salt and it is very salty. Even after treatment, it is still not usable. We pay tankers to fill our overhead tanks.
“Apart from the N7,000 I pay to fill the tank which I share with another neighbour in my boys’ quarters, I spend as much as N5,000 weekly on bottled and sachet water. The water from our borehole is just unusable.
“Where I was living before, the water was brownish in colour. You dare not even think about using it to wash, not to think of drinking. What we do is that we treat the water so that it could at least be used to wash clothes and toilets.
“We have a water treatment plant in the house. After treating the water, we wait for about three hours. Then it turns whitish. Only then can we use it to bathe or wash toilets. Even at that, one still has to pour disinfectants in it.
“My sister in Lekki Phase I lives in a six-bedroom duplex and they have to get two tankers of water every week.”
But Mrs. Stella Billy-Ashogbon, who lives in Ajah said the water in that side of the coast is cleaner than the one obtained around VI.
She said, “Most people who live here are those who would not spare cost in anything they do in their houses. Most people know that the deeper you go, the cleaner the water becomes. People who live here hire professionals to dig boreholes in such a way that they would not worry about contamination.
“Most of those who dig shallow wells or boreholes don’t use them for domestic purposes. They use it for construction or to wet flower. To get a sustained supply, you will have to go very deep.
“Those who build septic tanks around here take it far away from boreholes and they can afford to make their boreholes very deep, no matter the cost.
“All my friends living between Victoria Island and Chevron area of Lekki have a similar problem though. No matter how deep their boreholes are, the water they get from there is always brown. They buy water all the time. Sometimes they even buy water to wash clothes.
“Saying this place is supposed to have a centralized sewage system instead of individual septic tanks is just being idealistic. We like to be idealistic in the country instead of addressing our own peculiarity.”