Saturday, April 13, 2024

Bega Valley ocean fallout study findings revealed

Bega Valley Shire Council has revealed the results of a 10-year study into the potential impacts of developing an ocean outfall pipe at Merimbula Bay.

Council’s Water and Sewerage Services Manager, Chris Best said the study marked a key milestone in a project that aimed to improve effluent quality and disperse what cannot be reused further out to sea.

“This project came from a need to improve on ageing infrastructure that no longer meets regulatory requirements or community expectations,” Mr Best said.

“Put simply, since the 1990s, we have been using exfiltration ponds in culturally and environmentally sensitive sand dunes, and an outfall pipe that empties onto one of the region’s most treasured beaches.

“State of the art processes at our Merimbula treatment plant have made this workable to an extent, with regular testing showing good water quality in Merimbula Bay.”

He said a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement had been independently reviewed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and was ready for the next round of community feedback.

“Our shire is growing, greater pressures are being put on our treatment plants, and technology now allows us to make good quality effluent even better,” Mr Best said.

“If we add to this the need to protect valuable sand dune environments and the imperative that we must stop using culturally significant land as a filter for our effluent, then we reach a point where things must be done differently.

“This is why we have been working on finding a solution for more than 10 years. With a pristine bay, visitor expectations, a local shellfish industry and cultural heritage at stake, we must get this right.

“In this Environmental Impact Statement, we have left no stone unturned, looking at how the construction and ongoing operation of a 2.7km outfall pipe may affect local environments, recreation and business.

“We also provide a realistic view of effluent re-use, something we are keen to increase beyond current levels without removing the need for a safer backup disposal system.

“The report has been independently reviewed by experts at the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and it is now ready for community feedback.”

Mr Best said feedback would be collected by the NSW Government, with all comments to be considered and any changes to the EIS incorporated before a ministerial determination is made.

“Your voice counts – and now is your chance to tell the NSW Government what you think,” he said.

To read a summary of the Environmental Impact Statement’s findings, the full report and a link to the NSW Government’s submissions portal, visit Council’s Have Your Say webpage.

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