Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman has responded to concerns the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) won’t support plans to fix the brown, smelly water residents have put up with for years in the regional town of Yass.
In a statement, Ms Tuckerman reaffirmed her pre-election commitment to provide funding from the $1 billion Safe and Secure Water infrastructure program “to upgrade the Yass water treatment plant”.
“The Safe and Secure Water Program was made to ensure regional communities like ours have access to high quality, reliable and affordable water that meets modern environmental and health standards,” she said.
“The election commitment to Yass water is subject to the guidelines of the Safe and Secure Water program. This requires a rigorous design and procurement process, as well as ensuring any level of co-contribution from the council doesn’t overburden rate-payers or require a significant increase in water rates – unless approved by the community.
“I am just as frustrated as the community on why these matters take so long to commence.”
However, the local council and residents say it’s a new water treatment plant, not just an upgrade, that’s needed to fix the poor water quality for the years ahead.
They are concerned by the Department of Planning’s lack of support for a new water treatment plant, which Yass Valley Council says is the preferred long-term solution.
Yet, Ms Tuckerman believes “consideration needs to be taken on the impacts of local household water charges from a greater project cost”.
A new plant is estimated to cost $31.2 million.
“These extensive discussions that have been held between DPIE (Water), the council’s consultant (Hunter H2O) and council staff is a healthy part of major infrastructure construction process – it ensures both the council and state government are making appropriate decisions for now but also taking into consideration the long-term future needs of our community,” she said.
“These decisions being made need to be challenged, and justified, to ensure the best possible outcome now and into the future.
“Yass residents deserve the water quality issue to be fixed sooner rather than later, but they don’t need to be paying excessive water rates if it’s not needed.”
Yass Valley Council said the new plant could impact local household water charges if there was a shortfall between the estimated cost and available grant funding.
At this stage, the council’s water and wastewater manager, Kuga Kugaprasatham, said he didn’t know how much of that cost households would carry.
“It will depend on the estimated cost of the upgrade which is to be determined after the peer-review,” he said.
The council has asked for a peer-review of its proposal for a new water treatment plant to assist its discussions with the department.
The peer-review will begin in January and run until May. The detailed design and business case for further upgrades are then expected to be completed by February 2022.
In the meantime, the council has been granted approval from the department to upgrade the existing raw water pump station and install bubble plume aeration at a cost of about $2 million which will improve the drinking water in the short-term and is due to be completed by January 2022.