Local environmental scientist seeks legal advice on discharge plans for Stuarts Point sewerage

 

A LOCAL environmental scientist has sought legal advice from the Environmental Defenders Office in a bid to prevent Kempsey Shire Council pumping treated effluent into the dunes on the sandspit between the Macleay River and the ocean to the north of Stuarts Point.

Unconvinced by Council assurances that the planned discharge point poses no environmental threat, Michael Jones said his research points to the potential for damage to the ecology of the sandspit as well as the waterways surrounding it.

“There are three endangered ecological communities in that strip.

“The one that worries me is the saltmarsh,” he said.

“Where they’re talking about putting the discharge is 280-metres wide.

“Contamination plumes can travel up to a kilometer, so it’s highly likely there will be contamination in the north arm of the Macleay and the sea over time.”

Jones said this was a concern because, while waste is usually treated to a high level of purity prior to being discharged, it doesn’t completely eliminate elements that can cause environmental damage and that “you can never get rid of the high nutrient levels” that can cause algae blooms in water systems.

“Treating waste doesn’t destroy oestrogenic hormones and derivatives from painkillers, and the hormones will affect aquatic and marine life, including oysters,” he said, noting that the tidal river could carry the contamination to the oyster farms located south of the planned discharge point.

“I think they want to put it so far north because they’re worried about the oyster farms down south, but you get tidal movement of pollutants anyway,” he said.

“If I was an oyster farmer, I’d be concerned.”

Jones said a site to the west of the planned sewerage treatment site, which is set to be located near the waste transfer site on Fishermans Reach Road, might be a more suitable option for the discharge point and would have the added benefits of being closer and not requiring a pipe system running under the north arm of the Macleay, reducing costs and the risk of leaks into the river.

He noted that it would need to be kept well away from the drinking water supply located in the area and said, regardless of whether or not that was the answer, there had to be a better option for the discharge site than the current plan.

“Why would you have it going into a sensitive coastal environment where people swim and fish and you have the oyster industry?

“Why take that risk? It’s just not necessary,” he said.

Robert Fish, Kempsey Shire Council Director, Operations & Planning, said his team had worked closely with the NSW Environmental Protection Authority and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to “thoroughly assess” options for discharging the treated effluent.

“Dunal discharge was selected as the endorsed option of treated effluent discharge, similar to that in place at South West Rocks,” he said.

“Other options were considered, including subsoil irrigation to the west of the sewage treatment plant site, however they were not suitable due to the ground conditions at Stuarts Point, particularly during periods of wet weather.”

In response to questions about whether the treated effluent could be used to irrigate nearby avocado farms, Fish said it was an option that “can still be pursued” and was an “ongoing consideration” but that it wouldn’t replace the dunal discharge plans.

“The Stuarts Point sewerage scheme had to be designed to ensure a sustainable and complete sewerage service that would benefit and meet the needs of the whole community into the future under any circumstances.

“As such, the system design needs to allow for the full quantity of treated effluent to be disposed of in the dune area, as there will be periods where irrigation is not required, such as following wet weather,” he said.

“The capacity to dispose of the full quantity in the dunes does not make it compulsory.

“The option of irrigation of safe, treated effluent from the scheme may exist and this idea will be further considered as the project is developed.”

Fish denied that the planned dunal discharge point posed any threat to the area or waterways surrounding it.

“Modelling has been undertaken to ensure there is no impact on the environment in the area where the discharge will take place,” he said.

The Environmental Defenders Office declined to comment on the matter.

 

By Brooke LEWIS

One thought on “Local environmental scientist seeks legal advice on discharge plans for Stuarts Point sewerage

  1. Having read the story, and to quote part of it “Robert Fish, Kempsey Shire Council Director, Operations & Planning, said his team had worked closely with the NSW Environmental Protection Authority and NSW Department of Planning”. Who is in His Team and do any of them hold Formal Qualifications to make a very Important decision on this ?

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