Com­mu­nity dis­gust at sewage sludge dump

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

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.

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