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Byron Shire
October 3, 2022

Byron council to cop hospital’s sewage

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Construction continues apace at Byron Central Hospital. Byron Shire Council has announced it will take on responsibility for the hospital's sewage. Photo NNSWLHD
Construction continues apace at Byron Central Hospital. Byron Shire Council has announced it will take on responsibility for the hospital’s sewage. Photo NNSWLHD

Hans Lovejoy

Sewerage arrangements for Byron Central Hospital have been decided, with NSW Health Infrastructure set to plug into Byron’s sewage treatment plant (STP) instead of disposing of waste onsite. Eventually that treated waste will finish up in Belongil Creek and the ocean.

The decision to negotiate hospital waste was delegated to staff at a meeting held October 9, 2014, with staff asked to ‘set the design parameters required for the rising main to service the [hospital].’

Approval authority

But the clarity behind who approved it is unclear, with staff saying that ‘the decision to connect to the sewer line was a Health Department decision.’

Yet a Health Infrastructure spokesperson told The Echo that, ‘Connecting the sewage pumping station used by surrounding lots and the broader Ewingsdale community was discussed with, and approved by, Byron Shire Council. As there is ample capacity for this solution, there is no need for an onsite treatment plant.’

Nevertheless, Greens Cr Duncan Dey, who is also a civil engineer, has raised a few concerns, and believes that laying pipes from the hospital to the STP will enable a considerable expansion of Ewingsdale, with future developments being able to use the pipe.

He told The Echo that, ‘Best practice would be to establish the sewerage arrangements before committing to the project.’

‘Government responsibility should not end at the point where the effluent is chucked into the river. It is bad practice in principle, but the EPA licence implies it’s okay.’

‘The hospital lot was subdivided off from lot 101 as exempt development, ie Council was not asked. Lot 101 is what could have provided land for an onsite sewerage system. It is now the “seniors living” proposal.

‘The state, in approving its own development, bypassed what I thought was a key requirement under the LEP, [which is] to make adequate arrangements for sewage. In their infinite but urban wisdom, they have assumed that any building just gets connected to sewer, like in Sydney, where the end product goes into the Pacific Ocean.

‘I suspect the flow path (the “receiving environment”) was not considered in the STP assessment. I do not agree that there is capacity for the hospital to connect – the receiving environment is already overloaded.’

Cr Dey asked Council staff in the upcoming October 8 agenda whether there was ‘consideration or survey of possible routes’.

Director infrastructure services Phil Holloway did not elaborate other than, ‘a final route/design has been determined’ and that, ‘commitments have been signed off’ over designs.

But Mr Holloway told The Echo this week, ‘Staff have been closely involved with the design parameters of the sewer main to connect and service the hospital, and are satisfied with the result. The new hospital will have four waste streams generally as per the existing hospital.

‘When online, the hospital development will use less than one per cent of the Byron Bay STP capacity. As per existing requirements, water will also be tested and monitored at the Belongil Creek,’ he said.

Medical waste

The Echo asked Health Infrastructure what provisions will be in place for treating medical waste – hormones and antibiotics for example – before they hit the Byron STP.

A spokesperson replied, ‘The hospital will institute strict measures for handling medical wastes. These include decontamination pump-out pits to chemotherapy and emergency; filtration separator for dental; and plaster traps to treatment rooms.

‘Disposal of clinical wastes will be handled in accordance with NSW Health guidelines, which require placement in non-reactive containers.

‘Such wastes are not to be discarded to the sewer or any process where they may find their way into the environment.’

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