Sewage flows to a Mt Eliza beach

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SOUTH East Water crews repair the broken pipe which saw raw sewage spilling down escarpment into Earimil Creek and into Port Phillip. Picture: South East Water

SOUTH East Water crews were busy last week trying to repair a broken pipe which sent raw sewage cascading down the Earimil Steps escarpment into Earimil Creek.

Mt Eliza resident Des Berry said he found a waterfall (“or should that be effluent fall”) of raw sewage on his regular beach walk Wednesday morning, 12 September, which flowed to the beach.

“The dirty brown and very smelly discharge emanated from a broken sewage main at the top of the cliff near the Earimil lookout,” he said.

“At the north end of Ranelagh beach [the] South East Water pumping station receives the sewage effluent from most of Mt Eliza.

“Large pumps pump the water to the south of Ranelagh beach, then up the Earimil lookout steps to discharge into the main sewerage pipe and treatment plant then on to the ocean outfall into Bass Strait [at Gunnamatta].”

Mr Berry, a member of the Mt Eliza Association for Environmental Care, said the effluent flowed when the sewage discharge pump was turned on.

“However, the discharge rate is very high and I do not know how long it has been discharging,” he said.

“The odour is very strong and there is significant residue of raw sewage embedded in the creek bottom down to the beach and into the bay.

“I contacted the emergency call line for South East Water and asked them to turn off the pump. A man arrived 30 minutes later and said he was calling out the crew to dam the creek at the beach and pump out the creek.

“It is now too late and a significant amount of raw sewage remains in the creek and the sand on the foreshore.”

South East Water’s manager network delivery John Hribar said the company “responded immediately to contain the spill and minimise any environmental impact”.

He said the affected pipe connects to a pumping station servicing the area between Ballar and Earimil creeks, west of Nepean Highway.

“The EPA, Melbourne Water and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council were notified and advisory signs and markers were placed in several locations in the area, restricting community access,” he said.

“We encourage the community to be mindful of the temporary access restrictions.”

Mr Hribar said workmen had repaired the failed pipe section and put in place an “ongoing monitoring program to assess the environmental impact”.

“A thorough clean-up of the spill point is continuing and we apologise to the community for the spill and any inconvenience it has caused.”

EPA manager southern metro Marleen Mathias said EPA officers had arranged with South East Water to have signs erected “alerting the community and advising them of the issue”.

Warnings were also posted on the EPA’s Yarra and Bay websites.

“South East Water is sampling at key points along the creek to assess the impact and the EPA will work with them to ensure public safety,” Mr Rees said.

First published in the Frankston Times – 17 September 2018

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