DEC warns RVC to be on time

The Department of Environment and Conservations (DEC) executive director of operations, Joe Woodward, has warned Richmond Valley Council it could face prosecution if it does not upgrade the ailing Evans Head sewage treatment plant (STP) on schedule.

Mr Woodward, who inspected the STP last Thursday, said the upgrading issue had been brought to a head by the public outcry after last Decembers massive fish and bird kill at Salty Lagoon, into which the World War II era plant spews its discharge.

The $10 million upgrade, which is being made without any contribution from the NSW Government, is scheduled for completion at the end of 2007.

In January this year the DEC slapped a $1500 fine on Council its third penalty for exceeding faecal coliform limits.

While there were a range of factors which contributed to the fish kill, there is little doubt that the low-quality effluent being pumped into Salty Lagoon from the sewage treatment plant was a contributing factor, Mr Woodward said. Richmond Valley Councils performance in recent years on the issue of upgrading the Evans Head plant has been disappointing.

Mr Woodward said while the DEC had suggested Council consider a moratorium on development until the upgrade was completed, the Department was in no position to enforce one.

Richmond Valley Council general manager Brian Wilkinson said Council had recently increased its water and sewerage staff to ensure it met licence conditions.

Whilst it needs to be made clear that the practicalities of implementing all licence requirements within set timeframes is difficult, Council has made it clear to the DEC that it is committed to moving issues forward in an expedient manner.


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