Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Clean Up Our Coast

Not surprisingly, most of the discussion about water recycling during the last decade has been focussed on the need to overcome potable water shortages. However, there is another important driver for improved water management. That is, the need to minimise the impact that discharged treated sewage effluents have on the marine environment.

The discharges from Australian ocean outfalls represent a cumulating, and often overlooked, burden on marine flora and fauna. Some of the pollutants found in primary and secondary treated effluents include nutrients, suspended solids, organic carbon, pathogens and toxic chemicals. Large volumes of fresh water can also detrimentally alter otherwise saline environments. Furthermore, sewage discharges can carry large quantities of heat to otherwise cooler environments, thereby disrupting local ecosystems.

Every year, thousands of tons of the essential plant nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen are discharged via Sydney’s three deepwater ocean outfalls. These nutrients support the growth of plants and algae in coastal waters. Most of the nitrogen is discharged in the form of ammonia which is toxic to marine ecosystems.

The federal opposition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, has long been an active campaigner for the cessation of ocean outfall practices in Australia. Today, The Age newspaper reports Hunt embarking on a renewed campaign to lobby the Federal and State Governments to consider more carefully the options for reusing –instead of discharging- some of the effluents from Australia's major cities.

Libs Urge Action on Ocean Spill
Jewel Topsfield, Canberra
The Age
January 2, 2008

A CAMPAIGN to pressure the states to stop sewage spewing into the ocean will be launched by the Federal Opposition.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt will meet the opposition parties in each state and territory throughout this month. His aim is to form a national conservative coalition that will fight a campaign to be called Clean Up Our Coast.

In Victoria, the campaign will be focused on the Boags Rocks outfall near Gunnamatta beach, where the equivalent of 55,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of off-colour, treated sewage is flushed into Bass Strait every year.

Mr Hunt said there were 140 ocean outfalls across the country where pipes from treatment plants dump 1800 billion litres of sewage into the sea every year.

He said waste water that could be recycled for industry or agriculture was polluting oceans, harming marine life and jeopardising the health of surfers.

"It's inconceivable that the states allow this pollution to continue, let alone the waste of water," Mr Hunt said.

"Gunnamatta has 150 billion litres a year of secondary treated sewage dumped 10 to 20 metres offshore of one of the great surf beaches.

"Surfers still go there because it is such a great break, but they report numerous examples of ear infections which you simply don't get from other beaches."

Most of the recycled effluent that enters Bass Strait at Boags Rocks comes from the Eastern Treatment plant at Carrum, which is one of Melbourne's two big sewerage plants.

The Clean Ocean Foundation has been campaigning for years to close the Boags Rocks ocean outfall.

"This pipeline is the largest shoreline outfall in Australia, daily dumping more than 450 million litres. This is 42% of Melbourne's waste," the group's website says.

"These pipelines are at the ends of the water supply and waste collection chain, and because no dumping fee is paid, they are used indiscriminately."

During the 2006 state election, Labor spruiked an ambitious $2.3 billion plan to divert drinking water from the power stations in the Latrobe Valley and replace it with the recycled sewage now flushed out to sea near Gunnamatta.

But when the State Government announced its $4.9 billion water plan last June, including the desalination plant near Wonthaggi, the recycled plan was not approved.

"Victoria took the 'clean up Gunnamatta' campaign to the election, but then it evaporated afterwards," Mr Hunt said. "While I accept the desalination plant is part of the solution, it shouldn't be used as an excuse to abandon their election promise."

He said the Clean Up Our Coast campaign would involve naming and shaming the state governments and working with coastal action groups to raise public awareness. The Opposition would also lobby the Rudd Government to fund a national audit of the volume of sewage being pumped into the ocean.

A spokesman for Water Minister Tim Holding said the State Government remained committed to a $300 million upgrade of the Carrum plant. It is planned that the plant will provide 100 billion litres of recycled water every year by 2012 and improve the quality of the waste water discharged into Gunnamatta.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems as though the usual suspects who haunted this site are on holidays, or have had their attention diverted....

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