Rural residents query fee over waste treatment systems
RURAL residents are in a stink over a $150 sewerage system inspection fee they’ll have to pay under changes to government legislation.
Under guidelines imposed by the State Government and Environment Protection Authority (EPA) council has to inspect waste treatment systems on around 4500 properties that aren’t connected to reticu- lated town sewerage.
A list of all sewerage system locations and types of systems in the rural city will be compiled so council can make regular house calls to the properties, with frequency depending on the standard of each individual system.
Under a Draft Domestic Wastewater Management Plan (DWMP) each callout will cost the ratepayer $150, with quarterly visits lumping homeowners with a $600 charge per annum.
But it’s a cost that has angered residents who are reluctant to pay and who feel they’ve been blind-sided by the change.
The DWMP was up for adoption at the May council meeting at Moyhu Hall this week, which followed a statutory public exhibition period that attracted only four submissions.
Greta West resident Peter Ryan was the first of a string of people who weighed in on the plan and more specifically the cost impost on rural residents.
“Not many people knew about this and the $150 inspection charge is a little bit more than I had hoped,” Mr Ryan said.
“Is it going to be a one-off and is every household going to be made to conform?” he queried.
“My father put ours in over 50 years ago and it’s been pumped out once and that was for a family of six.”
Council director of infrastructure Barry Green said council doesn’t have many records of what types of systems properties have but now council is required to have that level of detail.
“There are 4500 of these systems somewhere in the municipality and part of the monitoring process is looking at where are the hotspots and where are the areas we are having issues,” he said.
Mr Green said part of the first step of this process is to inspect all of the properties.
“In some of the smaller blocks that are closer to other residential properties there are a lot of treatment plants and some of these, as part of their EPA accreditation, do require quarterly maintenance and inspection,” Mr Green said.
“In terms of the $150, we’re hoping at this stage that a lot of those will just be annual cost for people, to report on their system, but it will depend on the system.
“But some of the older systems only require a biannual or 3-5 year inspection.”
Fellow Greta West resident Gary Marshall told council that he wouldn’t let them on his property to inspect the sewerage system if they showed up.
“My system was signed off by council when the house was built and it works well without smell, the seepage is onto my property and there are no waterways,” he said.
“It’s a bit unfair and a lot of people can’t afford the extra $150 a year.”
Mr Green noted that people who live in town areas where they are connected to reticulated sewerage do pay a sewerage charge.
He also said there is a condition that sewerage systems need to be monitored.
Anne Dunstan from Tarrawingee was disappointed in the lack of information as she was never informed of the change when working with council when building a new house.
“We’ve been working with council really closely in regards to a build and septic tank systems and not once was any of that (inspection charge) mentioned,” she said.
Cr Harvey Benton said the (DWMP) document has a lot of anomalies and clarity is needed before council makes a decision on the matter.
Councillors voted to defer a decision on adopting the DWMP for two months until more consultation occurs.
TAX ON SEWERAGE: Peter Ryan from Greta West addresses council. PHOTO: Steve Kelly