CAMDEN Haven oyster farmers are demanding Port Macquarie-Hastings Council fulfill promises made four years ago to stop raw sewage flowing into local waterways whenever there is significant rain.
Last week the Camden Haven Courier told their side of the story. This week we have the response from the council’s director of infrastructure services Jeffery Sharp.
Mr Sharp said work completed to date has seen the reduction in the number of sites from which sewage once surcharged.
“Although we have now experienced four surcharge events this year, works to date have reduced the number of surcharge sites from previous years to now be isolated to Camden Haven pumping station #1,” he said.
“Previously surcharges were being experienced in a number of different locations during the same event. In 2008 the council reported five surcharge events, in 2009 four events and in 2010 and 2011 only one surcharge event was reported.
“Pump station #1 operates with three pumps, one smaller rated unit for dry weather flows and two larger pumps that are used for higher flows associated with wet weather and peak daily flows. Each pump is run on a daily basis to avoid a build up of solids around the pump intakes.
“At the time of the first surcharge, the smaller pump had been removed for repairs. This unit would not have met the flow requirements at the time.
“The pumps are maintained at regular intervals and the partial blockages in the larger units were not due to lack of maintenance. Nothing was found in either pump and once removed and set back into the well, were able to eventually pump the well down. It took in excess of five hours to drain the whole catchment. At the time although the rainfall was not significant, incoming flow from the catchment was still much higher than normal.
“Additional work scheduled for the pumping station includes the upgrade of incoming power supply which will be completed within the next five weeks. The provision of a diesel driven pump unit is also being undertaken to cater for power outages and other breakdowns to ensure operational continuity. This unit will be installed prior to the end of 2012.
“The council is aware of the local industry, the environmental forces and the economic benefit of the overall estuary on the community. The direct harvest classification was gained following previous improvements in the sewerage system and the council will continue to work transparently with the regulators with respect to all its sewerage schemes to ensure these beneficial conditions are maintained.
“I would add that irrespective of the alterations at the pumping station only flows attributable to a 1 in 5 year ARI rainfall event are catered for.
“There will still be surcharge from rainfall events greater than these events. It is also likely that future surcharges will occur from operational issues such as the one mentioned from blocked pumps or broken mains or power failure.
“It is therefore impossible to construct infrastructure to avoid all surcharges, and even if it were, additional works would also compete with other important sewerage scheme initiatives such as provision of reticulated supply to the Village areas one of which is Herons Creek which as you know is within the Queens Lake catchment.”
The questions put to Mr Sharp, included why the council does not inform the public when surcharges occur, public safety eating oysters from rocks and the safety of the people who live near where these surcharges still occur, were not answered.
The Courier also asked how money from developer contributions was spent. These contributions, according to the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council website are “required from new development to cater for additional works and services that will need to be provided by Council as a consequence of that development.”
This also was not answered.