Community disgust at sewage sludge dump
THE local community has reacted with disgust to news the company which last year sent experts to advice Cairns Regional Council on how to keep faecal matter out of the Douglas water supply is itself responsible for dumping more than 4000 tonnes of untreated sewage sludge onto beaches in NSW each year.
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” one member of the Douglas Community Water Reference Group said.
Hunter Water Australia, a subsidiary of the Newcastle water authority HunterWater, last year sent a team of experts to Douglas to advise council on how to prevent e Coli from leaking into the water delivery system.
HWA’s corporate parent was at the same time dumping untreated sewage sludge into the ocean around Newcastle.
In March this year, Hunter Water declared “biosolids pose a negligible health risk”.
At the same time, the authority announced a $15 million upgrade to carry out UV treatment of those biosolids to reduce the health risk of swimming among the sewage.
Cairns Regional Council general manager for water and waste Bruce Gardiner said he was astonished that any water authority was still operating an ocean outfall.
“Ewww,” was his first comment when told.
“I wasn’t aware of that. I know Hunter Water’s operations. They run a pretty good show. I thought all those issues were sorted years ago.”
Mr Gardiner stressed that the consultants who carried out the study of the water supply network in Douglas last year worked for HWA, based in Sydney, rather than HunterWater itself.
Michael Gabour, the Port Douglas representative on the DCWRG, said the revelations called into question the recommendations and analysis which the HWA consultants had provided.
“It’s absurd to think we took advice from a company that shows this level of disrespect for their own backyard,” he said.
“I think Cairns Water has adopted the right approach now, but we want to see action in getting our water back to being chlorine-free.”
Division 10 councillor Julia Leu said she hoped Hunter Water would definitely not be involved in designing the chlorine-free trial for Mossman.
“Clearly, dumping sewage sludge into the oceans is completely unacceptable these days and I understand is illegal in Queensland,” she said.
“We need to get on with that trial as soon as possible, but I would be very concerned if Hunter Water were involved, given they are dumping sewage sludge into the oceans.”
Mr Gardiner, who is currently assessing three proposals from Australian and international consultants to design the trials, told the Gazette Hunter Water was not on the short-list.
“I can assure you we’re not talking to Hunter Water about the chlorine-free trial,” he said.