The waters of Back Lagoon at Short Point, Merimbula have turned a chocolate milk colour this week as sediment traps in a new housing estate failed to catch muddy runoff.
“It’s disappointing that it appeared to take complaints from members of the public to bring this issue to light, however, I’m very pleased with council staff’s swift response and the developer’s compliance,” says Bega Valley Deputy Mayor, Mitchell Nadin.
Council’s Manager of Planning and Sustainability, Keith Tull says the primary source of the run-off is the Mirador area.
“Council staff also undertook investigations further up the catchment and identified some possible further minor contributions,” he says.
“Council has continued to work closely with the contractor carrying out the current subdivision works at Mirador in particular around soil and water management controls.
“It would appear that the established soil and water management controls in place for the current subdivision works were breached in the heavy rain event.”
Mr Tull explains that Council officers inspected the site before, during and after the rain event and that up until this event staff were of the opinion that the controls had been working effectively.
“Additionally, it was established during a site inspection post the event that the construction infrastructure controls established by a previous developer had also been breached during the event,” he says.
“The result is a short term reduction in water quality.
“Council staff have directed the contractor for the current subdivision works to repair the breaches in the sediment control works and also enhance the existing controls with additional works.
“Pleasingly, the contractor has immediately commenced this remediation and enhancement work.”
Mr Tull says Council will also be pursuing the repair of the controls put in place for the previous infrastructure works.
“And separately, staff will be auditing the building sites in the Mirador area targeting sediment control.”
In terms of possible fines or punishments, Mr Tull told Region Media that, “Council is continuing to investigate the matter and a decision will be made when all the facts are available.”
“This event highlights the importance of all developers establishing best practice sediment controls and undertaking routine maintenance.
“Council staff will continue to monitor the Mirador area.”
Cr Nadin says, “The Back Lagoon and surrounding estuaries are obviously environmentally sensitive areas and I hope this sediment breach has not caused any serious environmental damage.”
“I’m grateful to members of the Merimbula community for raising this serious issue and I’m confident council staff will keep a close eye on the situation and provide the community with updates.”