The Public Health Ministry has called off its investigation into the dumping of treated wastewater into the ocean at the ultra-luxurious hotel Four Seasons, on the PapagayoPeninsula on the northern Pacific coast.
Papagayo Servicios Generales S.A., the company that operated the treatment plant for the Four Seasons, had been under investigation since earlier this year.
According to Mario Calvo, the head of the Liberia office of the Public Health Ministry, which was overseeing the investigation, lab tests found that the water from the hotel’s wastewater treatment plant was “highly pure.”
The lab tests were conducted by the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and presented to the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT). “The water is being used for irrigation and is not causing any type of pollution,” Calvo said.
The Four Seasons is perhaps the highest profile hotel on the PapagayoPeninsula,which is part of a government-owned and administrated tourism development. Billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, one of the shareholders in the Four Seasons chain, stayed at the hotel last year as did U.S. celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Last year, another hotel within the concession area, the Occidental Allegro Papagayo, was temporarily shut down after area residents documented the company dumping wastewater into a nearby estuary and shipping raw sewage from its overloaded wastewater treatment plants to septic fields outside a small, nearby town (TT, Feb 1).
The Comptroller General’s Office also criticized the ICT’s “weak management” of the project, particularly in its administration of the various concessions, in a report released in April.
Calvo acknowledged that the ICT’s regulations for the concession area prohibit the dumping of any wastewater, treated or not, into the ocean.
“However, the (treatment) plants used by this company purify the water to the point that the (water purity) is very high,more than what other plants produce,” he said.
Echoing recently reported declarations by Health Minister María Avila Luisa, Calvo said the ICT regulations need to be changed in light of new technology. In the meantime, he said, the Health Ministry would be conducting tests “every two or three months” on the treatment plant’s water quality.
ICT spokeswoman Marcela Villalobos did not return Tico Times messages requesting clarification of whether the government was going to allow the treated wastewater to continue to be released into the ocean, in apparent violation of regulations.