29 August 2021

Ocean outfall study results delivered, now it's time for your say

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Merimbula’s current beach face outfall

Merimbula’s current beach-face outfall no longer meets regulatory requirements or community expectations. Photo: BVSC.

The results of a 10-year study into the potential impacts of developing an ocean outfall pipe at Merimbula Bay are in.

A comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement has been independently reviewed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and is ready for the next round of community feedback.

Bega Valley Shire Council’s Water and Sewerage Services Manager Chris Best said the study marked a key milestone in a project that aims to improve effluent quality and disperse what cannot be reused further out to sea.

“This project came from a need to improve on ageing infrastructure that no longer meets regulatory requirements or community expectations,” Mr Best said.

“Put simply, since the 1990s, we have been using exfiltration ponds in culturally and environmentally sensitive sand dunes, and an outfall pipe that empties onto one of the region’s most treasured beaches.

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“State of the art processes at our Merimbula treatment plant have made this workable to an extent, with regular testing showing good water quality in Merimbula Bay.

“However, our shire is growing, greater pressures are being put on our treatment plants and technology now allows us to make good quality effluent even better.

“If we add to this the need to protect valuable sand dune environments and the imperative that we must stop using culturally significant land as a filter for our effluent, then we reach a point where things must be done differently.

“This is why we have been working on finding a solution for more than 10 years. With a pristine bay, visitor expectations, a local shellfish industry and cultural heritage at stake, we must get this right.

“In this Environmental Impact Statement, we have left no stone unturned, looking at how the construction and ongoing operation of a 2.7 km outfall pipe may affect local environments, recreation and business.

“We also provide a realistic view of effluent re-use, something we are keen to increase beyond current levels without removing the need for a safer backup disposal system.

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“The EIS is a big report, and it needs to be, and we recommend anyone with an interest in this project and their local coastal environment to make the most of the depth of research that has gone into this document.”

Mr Best said the report had been independently reviewed by experts at the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and was now ready for community feedback.

“Any feedback will be collected by the NSW Government,” he said.

“All comments will be considered and any changes to the EIS will be incorporated before a ministerial determination is made.

“Your voice counts – and now is your chance to tell the NSW Government what you think.”

To read a summary of the Environmental Impact Statement’s findings, the full report and a link to the NSW Government’s submissions portal, click here.

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It is ludicrous that our waste is treated and then dumped in the ocean when our land is parched for water and we waste what we have. There must be a way for treated effluent to be used for reflushing toilets and other greywater uses. We are such a wasteful country, using drinking water to flush toilets, wash down pavements, wash cars and trucks etc. Either it is safe and can enter our environment, or it needs more treatment.

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