The proposed Byron Shire Water Strategy references again the importance of the reuse of treated wastewater. Such a strategy is important because it would reduce the demand on potable (drinking) water and reduce the amount of effluent leaving the sewage treatment plants (STP) for our waterways.
Back in the nineties Byron Shire Council (BSC) supposedly had a reuse policy in place. Process monitoring was carried out weekly on wastewater operations to assist operators to improve the performance of their wastewater treatment plants and supply the best quality of effluent possible. To achieve that quality, testing was carried out at a NATA-registered laboratory owned by BSC. A substantial sum of ratepayers’ money was spent to get this laboratory registered. The laboratory was a BSC asset. The potential for this laboratory not only to do work for Council but also to carry out testing for the private sector and thus generate revenue was self-evident.
So, why was the laboratory closed in 2008? The type of testing done by a NATA-registered laboratory is critical to monitoring the quality of wastewater destined for reuse.
I was invited to join the Water, Waste & Sewer Advisory Committee (WW&SAC) by Simon Richardson. The first meeting of the committee was held in 2017. I asked a question of the utility manager in W&R: ‘Did W&R still have a reuse policy and was W&R actively pursuing new recipients to take reuse?’. The answer from the utility manager was: ‘No’. Not one of the four councillors present asked: ‘Why not?’
Anyone who wants to see the amount of reuse being generated from sewage treatment plants can go to the BSC Water & Recycling website, go to ‘flows’ and see the amount of treated water discharge compared to reuse being generated. The reuse figures are minuscule e.g. on 1.3.2023 treated effluent leaving BVSTP was 1,456.61kl/day and reuse for the same day was 58.93kl/day.
We are now back to square one. Are any of Byron Shire’s councillors going to ask why we are back to square one?