Raising Iceland’s sewage treatment up to international standards would require an investment of ISK 50-80 billion (USD 475-760 million/EUR 405-648 million), RÚV reports.
Between 1997-2005 the proportion of the population whose homes were connected to sewage treatment plants increased from just 10 to 70 percent. Since 2005, however, that percentage has changed little. The equipment in many treatment stations is aging and damaged. Delaying repairs and replacements could result in larger costs down the line.
Many large towns around the country, such as Akureyri, Egilstaðir, and Selfoss, have no treatment stations whatsoever, pumping sewage directly into the sea untreated. Fortunately, many towns do have plans to implement treatment in the near future.
Untreated wastewater is being discharged into the sea in Reykjavík, temporarily, due to maintenance work in the treatment station at Faxaskjól. The repairs are expected to take ten days, during which untreated sewage from the city will enter the sea at a rate of 750 litres per second. Signs have been placed warning against entering the beach or water close to the pumping station.
The most serious environmental hazard from untreated sewage, however, is not human or animal waste, rather plastic, heavy metal, and trash that is flushed down the toilet rather than placed in the garbage.
Íris Þórarinsdóttir, technical director of sewage at Veitur, encourages individuals to avoid flushing garbage down the toilet, and instead toss it in the trash bin.