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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Counting poos: New sewerage trial approved

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Diagram showing how a low-pressure sewerage pumping system would work. Photo DB Enterprises

Paul Bibby

Plans for a controversial sewerage system trial in Mullumbimby were adopted by councillors at their meeting last Thursday, which will include a public meeting on the issue so residents can ask what it will involve and why it is being implemented.

Unlike the existing gravity-based system, low-pressure sewers use a small pump station located at each house to move wastewater through.

The Mullumbimby trial will also involve gathering data from each house about precisely how much sewage is produced each day.

Proponents of the trial say this would allow Council to get the clearest indication yet of how much water is getting into the town’s ageing earthenware sewers.

No analysis

But a group of locals living in and around Mullumbimby strongly oppose it and are calling on the council to abandon the plan until a proper comparative analysis of the different possible solutions has been undertaken.

Despite this strong opposition, Council’s Water Waste and Sewerage Advisory Committee recommended that the trial go ahead without any such analysis.

The chair of the Mullumbimby Residents Association, Dr Sonia Laverty, told The Echo it would have been preferable for the community to have been consulted before Council voted to introduce the trial.

Dr Laverty said, ‘Problems with the sewerage system in Mullum have been with us for some time, so consequently there is considerable knowledge in the community regarding the extent of the problems, as well as the effect of solutions used elsewhere in the Shire.’

A comparative study undertaken by Council staff prior to introducing a low-pressure sewer system at New Brighton found that a vacuum-style system, not a low-pressure system, was the best option.

Another Council report – the June 2010 Final Project Review of the Mullumbimby Sewerage System – also recommended against implementing a low-pressure system.

High capital cost

‘The retrofitting of a Low-Pressure Pumping System (LPPS) to the Mullumbimby sewerage reticulation system would have a high capital cost and will not eliminate stormwater inflow and infiltration because defects in the private upstream sewers will continue to be a problem and source of stormwater ingress… Implementation of an LPPS is not recommended,’ the report states.

The report also estimated that the cost of installing low-pressure pump systems would be $19,000 per house.

In related news, Council’s manager utilities Peter Rees has resigned from his position, effective October 26, 2018. Staff confirmed with The Echo the resignation but did not provide any explanation as to why when asked.

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