RVC in the poo over sewage plant discharge

The Evans Head Sewage Treatment Plant. Photo: Richard Gates.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has slapped a $1,500 fine on Richmond Valley Council for pollution from its Evans Head Sewage Treatment Plant.

The infringement notice was issued last Wednesday, January 18, after it was found their levels of faecal coliform discharge were above the permitted amount.

Councils acting general manager, Gary Murphy, said that while the ultraviolet disinfection system installed at the plant had improved effluent quality, with current faecal coliform discharge 10 times less than in 2003, it still did not meet the plants revised licence conditions.

This is due primarily to the plant hydraulics and quality of secondary treated effluent, Mr Murphy said. Council is investigating additional coagulant dosing to further improve the performance of the existing plant. We are however mindful of spending large amounts of money on equipment that will be redundant when a new plant is in place.

Mr Murphy said Council was committed to finalising the $10 million upgrade of the Evans Head Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) by December 2007. Tenders for the work will be called in March.

It is obvious that action on this outdated sewage plant is urgently required, Mr Murphy said. Council recognises the issues and is committed to rectifying the situation as soon as possible via an upgrade to modern technology.

Meanwhile, the Evans Head and District Water Committee continues to call for a moratorium on building involving new toilet connections in both Woodburn and Evans Head until the problem is fixed. The DEC is also in favour of this.

However, Mr Murphy dismissed the idea.

A moratorium on development at this point will have a minimal impact on effluent discharge performance, Mr Murphy said. Council is focussed on achieving a far greater result by relining old sewer pipes to prevent infiltration to the sewerage system and implementing effluent reuse trials.

A DEC spokeswoman said the infringement notice was not related to the December 8 wildlife kill at Salty Lagoon, which takes the Evans Head STPs discharge. On that occasion a combination of heavy rainfall, high temperatures and excess nutrients from the STP killed over 25,000 fish and hundreds of birds at the lagoon.

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