CLEAN Ocean Foundation will continue to push for sewage and wastewater be reused after being made safe for human consumption, rather than pumped into the ocean near Gunnamatta surf beach.
The foundation believes it can “work with” the Greens and the Legalise Cannabis Party to achieve its aims even though their pre-state election plan was not endorsed by any Labor candidates or MPs.
Foundation CEO John Gemmell said the two smaller parties “now have the balance of power in the Upper House [and] both were open to an evidence-based discussion about our proposal”.
Melbourne Water, which operates the outfall at Gunnamatta, has not commented on the foundation’s proposal for a $60 million upgrade to the South Eastern Treatment plant at Bangholme.
The foundation says the “treated” wastewater pumped daily through the south eastern outfall is wasted and in 2019-2020 contained 3.5 million kilograms of nutrients, according to the National Outfall Database.
Meanwhile, signs warning of health dangers to swimmers have been removed from the beach at Gunnamatta.
The signs were placed at the beach in October by Melbourne Water after heavy rains made it impossible to adequately treat sewage at the Eastern Treatment Plant.
Melbourne Water on Friday 2 December told Gemmill that the treatment plant had returned to “normal operation” and that water quality at Gunnamatta and beaches close to the Boags Rocks outfall were “no longer being impacted”.
“I know we can take a lot of learnings from the recent event, and we can make further improvements to our operations in the future,” Andrew Mellor, Melbourne Water’s team leader community engagement, customer and strategy, said.
“In regard to the current situation, Melbourne Water will continue to monitor the area and we will continue to keep the community informed should the situation change again.”
Gemmill has suggested that future warning signs should include an icon for surfing.
“I really think this is a serious oversight, given the beach is very popular for surfing,” Gemmill told Melbourne Water. “I know it sounds unbelievable, but the reality is some surfers have said to us that because it doesn’t specifically identify surfers, there’s not a risk to them.”
Meanwhile, a buoy moored outside of the surf zone off Boags Rocks records wind speed and direction, ocean current, temperature, pH and salinity but not whether the water is safe for swimming or surfing.
Melbourne Water says the data collected from the buoy “informs planning how to manage recycled water while maintaining the biodiversity of our marine environment”.
The buoy has an automatic identification system, GPS monitoring device and a flashing light at night so it can be seen, and vessels can safely navigate the zone.
Melbourne Water intends installing signs to let people know the buoy is there and avoid it being mistaken for a vessel or someone needing help.