HUNDREDS of millions of litres of treated water are poured daily into Bass Strait from a pipeline near Gunnamatta.
The dumping of this potentially useful resource follows a $412 million upgrade to the Eastern Treatment Plant at Bangholme that fell short of producing water suitable for human consumption.
Although treated to a much higher quality than the sewage that flowed from the ocean outfall up to 2007, the water contains “forever chemicals” and other pollutants, according to Clean Ocean Foundation CEO John Gemmill.
“The use of this water has stalled because of state government policy relating to recycled water, lack of finance for ancillary infrastructure and emerging concerns about forever chemical and other pollutants,” he said.
The foundation says whichever party wins government after the November state election should “finish the job” and pay an estimated $60m for infrastructure to make the already-treated wastewater suitable for human consumption.
“The water would then be extremely valuable, suitable for all purposes and stop the need for an increase to water bills into the future” Gemmill said. “Victoria has to stop throwing buckets of taxpayers’ cash into the ocean.”
The foundation, which successfully campaigned to clean up wastewater discharged from the south eastern outfall, is disappointed that it is not used for agriculture despite poorer quality water from the Western Treatment Plant being used on market gardens around Werribee.
“We have been surprised at the policy vacuum around large-scale water recycling projects for greater Melbourne that could use the water dumped into our ocean each day,” Clean Ocean Foundation president Peter Smith said.
“We have been consistent in saying that ocean pollution from society’s waste is no longer acceptable.
“Everybody wins if we choose a cleaner ocean and safely recycle water.
“We can’t continue to ignore the potentially disastrous effects of plastic microfibres and PFAs discharged into our aquatic environments. We need to adopt a precautionary principle and remove these long-lasting pollutants with technology already used in over 35 cities overseas.
“Water supply issues and ocean pollution are two sides of the same coin. Its only wastewater if you waste it.”
Smith said water discharged off the Mornington Peninsula National Park at Gunnamatta “has potential impacts on the ocean environment from its high nutrient levels that are associated with damage to bull kelp forests and contain forever chemicals and plastic microfibres that researchers world-wide are alarmed about”.
“The need to clean up this water once and for all is driven by increasing population pressures, increasing urbanisation, development of our coastal regions, climate change and related water security issues,” Smith said. “What happens with the Eastern Treatment Plant will be a test of Victoria’s environmental credentials.
“It will determine whether the state continues to dump more than two MCGs full of polluted water into our oceans and rivers daily while even more expensive, energy hungry desalination plants proliferate on our coast.
“Or will it opt to act responsibly, safely recycle our water and protect rivers and coastline from needless pollution for future generations?”