Evaluating impacts of on-site sanitation facilities on shallow groundwater quality in low-income neighborhoods of Cape Coast, Ghana

Authors: Joseph Zume*, Shippensburg University, Simon Mariwah, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana, Ebenezer Kwaku Boateng, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Africa, Environmental Science
Keywords: Groundwater and sanitation, Cape Coast, Ghana, on-site sanitation facilities, groundwater quality, Sub-Saharan Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom 2, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Inhabitants of low-income city neighborhoods throughout Sub-Saharan Africa are often faced with acute problems of clean water access and improved sanitation services. On the one hand, the lack of central sewage systems forces households to rely solely on on-site sanitation facilities (septic tanks and pit latrines) for wastewater management. On the other, limited access to pipe-borne water elicits a high dependence on shallow groundwater wells in poorer neighborhoods. Eventually, domestic wells end up in close proximity to on-site septic systems, posing a high risk of groundwater contamination, with human health implications. In Ghana, about 70% of diseases are reportedly water-borne, related to sanitation issues. This study assessed the impacts of on-site sanitation facilities on groundwater quality in five low-income neighborhoods of Cape Coast, Ghana. A total of 40 groundwater wells were sampled and tested for total coliform, fecal coliform, E. coli, and total heterotrophic bacteria. The samples were further tested for the chemical compounds - nitrate-Nitrogen (NO3), nitrite-Nitrogen (NO2), orthophosphates (PO4), calcium (Ca), chloride (Cl), magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), manganese (Mn), and sulfate (SO4). Results indicate varying levels of groundwater contamination in all five neighborhoods, with roughly 88% (35/40) of the tested wells registering fecal coliform or E. coli counts well above the WHO thresholds. The water chemistry was equally unsatisfactory at many wells. We therefore recommend treatment of domestic well water before human consumption. Intervention by the Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly will be particularly helpful to the plight of these neighborhoods.

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