Kempsey Council responds to concerns over Stuarts Point flooding and sewerage treatment plans


KEMPSEY Shire Council has responded to questions raised about plans for a sewerage treatment plant to service Stuarts Point, Grassy Head and Fishermans Reach, reassuring residents that the system has been designed to mitigate the risk of groundwater contamination during floods.

Among the issues raised by locals was whether the proposed pressure sewer system would pose similar risks to that of the current septic system.

“With the system they’re suggesting, every house will have a collection well with a pump in it that connects to the sewer.

“If we have another flood like we’ve just had, every collection well that isn’t sealed properly will overflow,” plumber Brett Hughes said.

“The system they’re proposing won’t stop the pollution when it floods.”

Hughes said improving drainage of the town would be the best way to avoid contamination of groundwater in future floods, noting that “a few properties will be low spots where you might need pumping stations” but kerb and guttering was key.

“If they drained the town properly, down to the river, they wouldn’t even need the sewer. I don’t think it would be hard to do,” he said.

Kempsey Shire Council Director, Operations & Planning, Robert Fish said that unlike the septic systems currently in place, which are the responsibility of each property owner, Council would be responsible for ensuring collection tanks are properly sealed and maintained.

“Tanks will be appropriately sealed to mitigate any such impacts and this process will be operated and maintained by Council,” he said.

In response to questions about whether kerb and guttering works would be a simpler and more cost effective flood mitigation strategy than the planned sewerage system, Fish said it was being considered as part of a solution but was unlikely to be sufficient on its own.

“Kerb and guttering works may be an option for stormwater drainage improvement, however many properties sit lower than the roads.

“As one could imagine, this has the potential to worsen stormwater impacts in such locations,” he said.

“Further investigations into the recent events are being carried out.

“These will allow Council to better understand stormwater upgrade needs and evolve a more informed maintenance plan of key drains within the area.

“These investigations will need to take into account both the impacts from heavy rainfall and associated flash flooding, as well as the complications of rising water table events.”

Fish rejected suggestions development opportunities had been the “driving force” behind the sewerage system, but noted that “it will provide opportunity for growth in the area, and there is land surrounding Stuarts Point already zoned for potential residential subdivision”, along with other benefits for homeowners and local businesses.

“It is also anticipated that the sewerage scheme will improve property values in the area, based on increased land value, development potential and improved social benefits,” he said.

“The sewerage scheme will also help the area cater for visitor populations in caravan parks and allow for additional property development.

The scheme is also anticipated to improve estuary health for oyster growers in the area.”

Fish said the main motivation for the sewerage scheme was replacing the area’s large number of septic systems that do not comply with modern standards for treatment quality and disposal area conditions, posing a risk of groundwater contamination and associated public health impacts via overflow events.

“The key driver for the Stuarts Point sewerage scheme is addressing the issues that exist with existing treatment systems in use in the villages,” he said.

“The modern wastewater management system that will result from this project will have numerous benefits for the entire area, including a positive environmental impact by reducing onsite system leakage and eliminating odour and water quality issues.”


By Brooke LEWIS

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