Effluent a boon for farms

RESOURCE?: Merimbula's current beach outfall pipe for treated effluent. Plans are being pursued for a deep ocean outfall, but community groups are calling for its reuse instead.
RESOURCE?: Merimbula's current beach outfall pipe for treated effluent. Plans are being pursued for a deep ocean outfall, but community groups are calling for its reuse instead.

The conversation around what to do with Merimbula's treated sewage continued at a meeting with the Environment Protection Authority and council last week.

The Sustainable Water Actions for Merimbula and Pambula group (SWAMP) hosted the roundtable with Nigel Sargent and Janine Goodwin from the EPA Queanbeyan office attending.

Feeling "like we remain unheard", the SWAMP members and community representatives from a range of sectors shared their thoughts on the shire's treatment of effluent.

Key among the discussion topics was the potential to make use of the treated effluent on nearby farms.

Agricultural consultant Phillip Pittolo said he was surprised the farming sector wasn't made aware of the issue earlier, as he had multiple primary producers lining up to use the treated effluent should it be made available.

Currently, treated effluent from the Merimbula Sewage Treatment Plant is utilised by the Pambula-Merimbula Golf Club, but in extreme weather events, the overflow is piped on to Merimbula Beach.

The council is pursuing a plan to construct a deep ocean outfall to take excess effluent, should the need arise, 2.6km out into the bay.

Mr Pittolo was joined by two farmers at the meeting, but he said he had "another three or four" also interested

"I got the impression council thought [they] local farmers weren't in a position to use the full capacity," Mr Pittolo said.

"I've crunched the numbers though - on just one farm we could use 300-400 megalitres [the entire expected output], and these guys are happy to invest to meet those requirements.

"There is no issue in finding a home for it. You make it, we'll find a home for it."

Rural counsellor Peter Muirhead said water for these properties was a huge expense.

"In a typical year water is around $100-200 a tonne - this year it's been $4-500," Mr Muirhead said.

"For 300 milking cows, that equates to $4-500,000 a year in additional costs - or savings because of that water being available.

"The more water we can have the better."

Merimbula solicitor Mark Hagan said the idea not only had merit, but had been shown to work in the past.

"There was a farmer in Bega who took it for years. We know we can do it," Mr Hagan said.

"This decision by council starts with the assumption the water is worthless. Farmers know it's valuable. It just needs a little bit of effort."

Mr Hagan said in 1980 he had made submissions opposing deep ocean outfalls in Sydney.

"I can't believe we are going through the same thing 40 years later."

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