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Story Publication logo July 28, 2017

Haiti: A Trip to Goat Mountain

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After the 2010 earthquake, NGOs dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage at the end of the Port-au-Prince city landfill, which borders the sea and is not lined with an impermeable material. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.
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In 2011, one year after a catastrophic earthquake and subsequent cholera epidemic in Haiti, trucks...

The sewage treatment site at Morne a Cabrit is run by the Haitian government. It is currently the only such facility in a country of about 10 million people. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.
The sewage treatment site at Morne a Cabrit is run by the Haitian government. It is currently the only such facility in a country of about 10 million people. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.

Morne a Cabrit, or Goat Mountain, is north of Port-au-Prince, about an hour’s drive from downtown if you make the trip, as I did, in the cab of a fully loaded sewage pump truck.

This is the home of the only large-scale public sewage treatment facility in Haiti—the only location where trucks carrying human waste can pay a fee and dump their contents in a place that’s engineered to treat it and, eventually, release safe water back into the earth.

Companies and NGOs with sewage pump trucks like this one pay per cubic meter to unload raw waste at the sewage treatment facility at Morne a Cabrit, about an hour's drive from downtown Port-au-Prince. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.
Companies and NGOs with sewage pump trucks like this one pay per cubic meter to unload raw waste at the sewage treatment facility at Morne a Cabrit, about an hour's drive from downtown Port-au-Prince. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.

The entire operation requires little or no energy. Over a few weeks, untreated liquid waste makes its way through three open-air pools. The tropical sun and the wind separate and irradiate, and the color goes from dark to clear. When it is full, the final pool flows into a wetland at the end of the property.

Haiti has a population of more than 10 million people. About 4 million of those live in and around Port-au-Prince. The $2.5 million sewage treatment plant at Morne a Cabrit, however, is functioning below capacity. There is simply not enough volume to fill it.

Which raises the obvious question: where is all the sewage going? And why isn’t it coming here?

And, yes, there are goats at Goat Mountain. A lot of them.

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