Government programs to reduce beach pollution
Many actions are being taken to prevent pollution at the beach, with State and local governments tackling sources of pollution in a range of ways. Some of the major initiatives and achievements are:
Sewage Treatment Plants
Urban Stormwater Program
The NSW Government's Urban Stormwater Program was established in 1997 and was completed on 30 June 2006. A total of $82 million in seed funding was provided to address stormwater quality hot spots and to give the stormwater industry and stormwater managers an opportunity to develop new ways of addressing poor stormwater quality and ameliorating its impact on receiving waters.
The major outcomes of Urban Stormwater Program include:
$67 million worth of stormwater project grants to councils, with additional contributions of $40 million by councils
stormwater harvesting projects that will provide ongoing benefit in reducing water consumption
nearly 100 artificial wetlands built to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment entering waterways
an independent evaluation of the $7 million Urban Stormwater Education Program, showing one person in five has changed their behaviour to reduce stormwater pollution as a result of the program.
as of June 2006, an estimated 24000 tonnes of pollution stopped from entering our waterways as a result of the stormwater program's activities. This is equivalent to over 2400 full garbage-truck loads of rubbish.
The Urban Stormwater Program has proven to be a successful, integrated, state-wide program that has made a difference to stormwater quality. It has raised the community's knowledge of stormwater pollution, shown people how to make a difference, improved attitudes and changed the behaviour of people in NSW.
Sydney Water's Environmental Improvement Program
Sydney Water has also invested $19.4 million in the Stormwater Environmental Improvement Program over five years. This has included the installation of 25 new stormwater quality improvement devices, one wetland and one stabilisation project, as well as various education and monitoring projects.
Sydney Water now removes litter and sediment from nearly 46% of stormwater runoff in its stormwater infrastructure, targeting hotspots in its area of operation. In 2005–2006, Sydney Water’s 44 stormwater quality improvement devices prevented 2973 tonnes of sediment and 1903 cubic metres of litter from entering waterways. An additional 16 stormwater improvement devices will come on line in 2006–2007.
Ongoing support for stormwater management
Urban stormwater management in the future will build on the improved knowledge that has accrued during the Urban Stormwater Program and integrate it with the whole urban water cycle. Catchment Management Authorities in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Climate Change will provide support to councils, with a focus on projects that have regional significance.
Future funding for stormwater projects will be provided under the Urban Sustainability Fund. Grant funding will be targeted to supplement any funds raised by local councils under the newly available stormwater management service charge.
Deep ocean outfalls for North Head, Bondi and Malabar sewage treatment plants
In 1984, Sydney Water Corporation decided to proceed with the construction of deep ocean outfalls at North Head, Bondi and Malabar sewage treatment plants. The deep ocean outfalls replaced the existing cliff-face outfalls and were designed to dilute and disperse the effluent through a series of diffusers located two to four kilometres offshore, in water 60 to 80 metres deep. Salinity measurements around the diffusers have shown that the effluent is diluted at least 200 times and up to 1000 times.
The Malabar deep ocean outfall became operational in September 1990, followed by North Head in December 1990 and Bondi in May 1991. Since that time, there have been significant improvements in beach water quality.
Cronulla sewage treatment plant upgrade
The upgrade of the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant was opened in April 2001. The upgrade involved the addition of secondary biological treatment, tertiary sand filtration, ultraviolet disinfection and chlorination of the wastewater. The treatment scheme allows for use of the treated wastewater by local industry, thereby reducing the volume of discharge from the plant. The capacity of the plant was also increased.
Pipelines were constructed under Port Hacking to connect residents of Bundeena and Maianbar to the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant. These areas have historically relied on on-site systems such as septic tanks.
Northside Storage Tunnel
The Northside Storage Tunnel was constructed to capture wet weather overflows from four major overflow sites on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour (Lane Cove, Quakers Hat Bay, Tunks Park and Scotts Creek). The tunnel transports the diluted sewage (sewage diluted with stormwater) to North Head Sewage Treatment Plant for treatment before discharge via the deep ocean outfall. The tunnel was designed to reduce the number of overflows at the four major wet weather overflow points from more than 150 to less than 20 in an average 10-year period.
The tunnel has so far prevented more than 20 billion litres of sewage overflows from entering Sydney Harbour. The volume captured to date is provided on Sydney Water's website.
Upgrades to Hunter region sewage treatment plants
Between the mid 1980s and late 1990s, Hunter Water Corporation focussed on improving the performance of it’s ocean outfall sewage treatment plants. Secondary biological treatment was introduced at Burwood Beach, Boulder Bay and Belmont sewage treatment plants, along with extended ocean outfalls for each plant.
Stockton Sewage Treatment Plant was decommissioned in July 2002. The plant serviced a population of approximately 5000 people, and sewage is now transferred to Shortland Sewage Treatment Plant.
Upgrades to Hunter region sewage transport system
Hunter Water Corporation has developed Upgrade Management Plans for the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas. These plans identify strategies to address wet weather sewage overflows and cater for population growth over the next 20 years. More than $120 million will be spent on the following works:
- Upgrades to sewage pumping stations, including installation of new pumps and electrical equipment
- Amplification of the sewerage system, including construction of new sewer mains and provision of storage to cater for heavy rainfall events
- Sealing access chambers, relining sewer pipes and smoke testing to locate illegal connections to reduce the amount of rainfall entering the system
- Construction of a wet weather pumping system to transfer sewage from the Newcastle transport system directly to Burwood Beach Sewage Treatment Plant during periods of heavy rain.
The Illawarra Wastewater Strategy
The Illawarra Wastewater Strategy was designed to deliver water quality improvements at a number of Illawarra beaches, particularly those near the Bellambi, Wollongong and Port Kembla sewage treatment plants. The Strategy will end dry weather discharges from the Bellambi and Port Kembla sewage treatment plants, and through water recycling, will reduce the total volume of treated sewage discharged to the ocean and save about 7.3 billion litres of fresh water each year.
The components of the strategy are:
- A tertiary sewage treatment plant at Wollongong
- A water recycling plant at the Wollongong Sewage Treatment Plant which will produce up to 20 million litres of recycled water each day
- Pipelines to transfer dry weather sewage flows from the Bellambi and Port Kembla areas to Wollongong Sewage Treatment Plant for tertiary treatment or recycling, and a pipeline to transfer recycled water from the Wollongong Sewage Treatment Plant to BlueScope Steel.
- Specialised storm flow plants at the Bellambi and Port Kembla sewage treatment plants which will store and treat sewage during wet weather events
- Replacement of the near-shore ocean outfall at Wollongong with a dual-pipe, one kilometre outfall.
The Illawarra Wastewater Strategy also includes the amplification of the Shellharbour Sewage Treatment Plant to meet the demands of population growth within the Albion Park and Shellharbour areas up to 2025. Works include construction of additional tanks to allow for increased flows, improvements in sewage treatment processes, and modifications to the ocean outfall to improve effluent dispersion.
Sydney Water's website has further information on the Illawarra Wastewater Strategy
The Gerringong/Gerroa Sewage Scheme
Gerringong/Gerroa Sewage Scheme was initiated to provide sewage to the towns of Gerringong and Gerroa, areas that previously relied on on-site wastewater systems such as septic tanks. The scheme was completed in August 2002 and included the construction of a sewage treatment plant at Gerroa. The plant uses advanced wastewater treatment technology and more than 90 per cent of the effluent is reused on neighbouring agricultural properties.
Licensing of sewage overflows
May 2000, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA, now part of Department of Environment and Climate Change) expanded the licensing regime to cover not just sewage treatment plants, but the whole sewerage system including pipes, access chambers, pumping stations and overflow structures. The licences regulate what can be discharged from sewage treatment plants and overflows from the sewerage system and include conditions to ensure continuous improvement of the systems.
More information on DECC licensing of sewerage systems can be found on the DECC website.
Sydney Water's SewerFix Program
SewerFix is Sydney Water's program for maintaining and improving the sewer system and includes works to reduce both dry weather and wet weather sewage overflows.
Dry weather sewage overflows are caused by blockages in sewer pipes or mechanical or electrical failures at sewage pumping stations. Sydney Water's Dry Weather Overflow Abatement Program includes:
- Clearing blockages from approximately 1000 kilometres of sewer pipe each year, with almost 85 per cent caused by tree root intrusion. Preventative maintenance and repairs are conducted on sewer with recurring problems or where the discharge impacts a waterway
- Installation of telemetry systems in all 659 operating sewage pumping stations to provide warnings of failure, reducing the response time and the likelihood and severity of overflows to the environment
Wet weather sewage overflows are caused by rainwater/stormwater enters the sewer system, increasing flows to beyond the capacity of the network. Sydney Water's Wet Weather Overflow Abatement Program includes:
Sewer lining to prevent infiltration of rainwater/stormwater into the sewerage system and sewer amplification and overflow storage to reduce sewage overflow discharges, with these works targeted at sewers in the vicinity of beaches
Silt removal works to restore the transport capacity of the sewer mains
Amplification of sewer pipes in areas with expected population growth to ensure that the capacity of sewerage system is maintained
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Page last updated: 15 February 2013