Ru­ral res­i­dents query fee over waste treat­ment sys­tems

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY STEVE KELLY skelly@ ne­me­

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

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