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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Byron’s water tanks have ‘serious structural issues’

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Byron’s Wategoes and Paterson Street water reservoirs have ‘serious structural issues,’ with ‘faecal contamination’ according to the peak body that supports the Australian urban water industry.

The Paterson Street water reservoir in Byron Bay. Photo: www.imagesofbyronbay.com.au

In its submission to the federal Parliamentary Inquiry into 5G in Australia, The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) make the remarkable claim that increased loadings of extensive telecommunications equipment onto the reservoir roof structures have led to the problems, ‘and its maintenance/replacement was not considered by Telecommunications carriers.’

Heavy telco load

On page 12 of submission 297, available at www.bit.ly/2PLv9XT, it reads, ‘Both reservoirs have extensive telecommunications equipment installed on site’. 

‘The antennas and EME RF zones emit around the circumference of the tanks, however the installed support equipment impacts the operational area of the assets. 

‘Currently both sites have serious structural issues that cannot be addressed until all communication fixtures are removed from the tank. 

‘The stored drinking water is at risk as the roof framing has collapsed in areas resulting in a centre box gutter failing and roof drainage and faecal contamination is entering the tank. 

‘The structural assessments of increased loadings onto the roof structure and its maintenance/replacement was not considered by Telecommunications carriers (individually or as a collective)’. 

Council’s director Infrastructure Services Phil Holloway told The Echo, ‘Council is aware of the Water Services Australia Report and actually contributed to the report. 

‘Council’s schedule to replace roofs on the Wategos and Paterson Street reservoirs is overdue and, unfortunately, it has become very complex, as a number of Telcos have infrastructure situated on the reservoirs and we are negotiating their removal.

State-wide issue 

‘Staff have been working with the Telcos for a number of years in relation to this issue.  This problem is not just being experienced in the Byron Shire – it is a state-wide issue. 

‘These discussions are ongoing, and from Council’s perspective, we would like to find a resolution.  

‘It is however complex, and this is why the work has not proceeded in the time that Council would prefer.

‘In the interim, there were some temporary repair works completed on both reservoirs earlier in the year.

‘With respect to drinking water being at risk – Council would like to assure residents and visitors that drinking water is not contaminated and is perfectly safe to drink.  

Water tested weekly

‘Like all water from reservoirs in the Byron Shire, and the Northern Rivers, the water is tested and monitored on a weekly basis, as is required by NSW Health’.  

Holloway added, ‘Staff are also in regular contact with NSW Health and at no time has there been any suggestion or concern about the quality and safety of the drinking water from the Wategos or Paterson Street reservoirs.’

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  1. 1. Safe faecal contamination . . . interesting concept.

    2. How’s this for a negotiating position: “Take your equipment off our roof, fix the problem, put your equipment back, and don’t even think of sending us a bill.”

    • Short term view usually by many & various councils in AUS, as the lease $$$ is usually approx $30k or so PER ANNUM for these installations, with lengthy leases. Most leases do have clauses relating to damage of council property from these installations, & telco onus on rectification. Most councils happy to throw significant coastal or nature views, public amenity etc.. under the bus to get the valuable leases in place!

  2. I worked on these reservoirs from 1990 to 2008 and the structural problems with Wategoe’s roof structure go back a long time and were well known even before the telecommunications equipment was installed. I’m shocked nothing has been done to rectify this problem yet. The council had been informed numerous times but always ignored it. Bolts were literally rusting off and falling into the reservoir. Then the communications equipment arrived. I objected on the grounds that we had to visit and work in the close vicinity to these emitters (within meters) The response was a painted line a few meters around the emitters and a sign down the bottom side of the reservoir saying Danger stay out of paint marked area., The only excuse I was given was the communications companies can do what they want, end of story. Interestingly I read that the council received a remittance for having these structures on the reservoirs, something, I never knew. It all makes sense now Some shiny arse in the office saw a quick dollar and a pat on the back for making the council some easy money. Present and future maintenance concerns be buggered. Lets not go into WHS hazards for the staff.. The thing is Council keeps records of these things and the fool responsible will be able to be found and if it’s still working there should be demoted or sacked. Don’t hold your breath though, They will close ranks to save this idiot. No doubt they’ve been promoted since and its no good for the ratepayers to know the kind of buffoons now running the show. What would happen to Byron Councils credibility.(HA) So once again Councils decisions have caused grief. I won’t get started on the road maintenance decisions they made that left the shire with an overabundance of potholes.Suffice to say contracting out councils responsibilities proved that private industry isn’t always better. This is particularly true with councils sort sighted view of the world. I personally stopped the poisoning of Ocean Shores water supply once at the risk of my job by refusing to bulk dump 200 liters of chlorine into the reservoir when to my knowledge 30 liters a day was the maximum Happily one of the managers responsible has left. The moral of this story is never have blind faith the council knows best. I also agree with Christopher Hungerland. Communications is important but water supply trumps it hands down

  3. When my father was Shire Presiden,t and also chair of Rous County Council, he personally checked the water at his chemist shop in Jonson Street every day to ensure there was no contamination. I accept Byron Council’s assurances but I do not know why they are not checking it daily.

  4. Peter , your father thought it important enough to conduct daily tests.
    Surely the passage of time hasn’t lessened the importance of a frequent testing regime, as well as proper maintenance of the infrastructure.


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