Ocean outfall proposal comes under fire

This aerial photo released by Richmond Valley Council shows where effluent would be pumped out to sea as part of a new ocean outfall option to deal with Evans Head sewage.

Plans by Richmond Valley Council to pump treated sewage effluent out to sea at Evans Head have been slammed by the Evans Head and District Water Committee.

Chairman Dr Richard Gates called the ocean outfall proposal unacceptable.

The ocean is being used as a sewer, said Dr Gates. Anyone whos taken the time to research the state of our coastal waters knows that water quality is under threat. Its hard to believe in this day and age that Council would even contemplate dumping effluent off our popular beach.

Under a long-standing arrangement with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) low quality sewage effluent currently drains directly from the Evans Head Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) into Salty Lagoon in Broadwater National Park, and then out into the ocean. However DEC has said effluent cannot continue to be discharged there in the long term, even though effluent quality will dramatically improve once the STP is upgraded.

Dr Gates was critical of the DEC, which previously had a policy of banning ocean outfalls but had now given in principle support for the proposal.

He said the DEC had a track record of not protecting Salty Lagoon from sewage pollution and had also been involved in the proposal to dump effluent in the Evans River which caused a huge community outcry.

This is the authority which is supposed to be protecting our environment, he said. You have to wonder about the quality of their decision-making.

In last weeks Echo Councils director of works, Gary Murphy, conceded ocean outfall was not the best solution in dealing with sewage effluent.

Its not the best solution, he said. But its one the community of Evans Head can afford.

In August Mr Murphy said Council had investigated dual reticulation for Evans Head, where effluent would be treated to a high enough level for household re-use (such as flushing toilets, garden use and even washing clothes).

He said dual reticulation would add $10 million to the cost of the Evans Head STP upgrade, which was money Council did not have.

Meanwhile, ebb-tide discharge into the Evans River was costed at $3 million. Estimated costs of a pipeline for deep water discharge have not been done yet, he said.

Dr Gates said the environmental costs of pollution needed to be taken into consideration something that was becoming increasingly apparent with growing awareness around global warming.

In the case of all the equations done by Richmond Valley Council there are no environmental costs factored in, he said. Its a false economy. The environment is treated as if it is free. It is not free. There are all these little things happening all the time and we dont do anything about them. But they all add up. Dumping effluent theres an accumulative effect there. It makes things worse for us, makes us need to close our beaches. If you shit in your own nest for long enough, theres a very high price to be paid.

This week Mr Murphy said ebb-tide discharge was Councils only viable option.

The fact its now in deep water instead of the river mouth is a much better social outcome for the community, he said.

Council was fairly confident it would get approval for the proposal from the DEC, he said.

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