THOUSANDS of signatures have been added to an online petition calling for wastewater now being dumped into the ocean near Gunnamatta to be made suitable for human consumption.
The “treated” water being discharged at the south-eastern outfall in 2019-2020 contained 3.5 million kilograms of nutrients, according to the National Outfall Database.
Clean Ocean Foundation president Peter Smith said $60 million would enable the Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) near Bangholme to produce purified recycled water.
Smith says treating the water to a higher level would make it more useful and reduce the pollutants that were having a detrimental effect on sea life (“Taxpayers’ cash pours into the ocean” The Times 29/8/22).
The foundation has adopted the weedy seadragon as an emblem to emphasise the types of marine creatures threatened by the pollutants.
Smith said the waste, dubbed “forever chemicals”, included microplastics, and other contaminants identified as threats to bull kelp forests and marine life including the seadragons and argonauts (nautilus octopus).
He said researchers throughout the world were alarmed about forever chemicals on the marine environment.
“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 Melbourne Cricket Grounds 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?”
Smith said the outfalls had been identified as a primary driver of eutrophication and excessive algal growth by the recent federal government state of environment report and climate change
“Excessive nutrients are poisonous to bull kelp,” he said.
“Bull kelp forests provide critical habitat for a variety of endangered species, If you take away the bull kelp you completely change the biodiversity.
“Any chance to restore these bull kelp forests to their former glory hinges on securing a much-needed upgraded ETP that would stop the nutrients and other pollutants from entering the marine environment.
“As well as removing the pollutants such an upgrade could also produce the same quantity and quality water suitable for any purpose”
“Emerging contaminants like PFAS, and the scourge of micro plastics from domestic washing machines have turned the re-use of Class A water into a risky business.”
Within days of starting the online petition Save the Weedy Seadragon. Modernise Victoria’s water policy to allow use of recycled water, it had been signed more than 11,000 times. Near the end of last week, the figure was fast approaching 20,000 signatures.
The foundation successfully campaigned to clean up wastewater discharged from the south eastern outfall is disappointed that the water is not used for more widely for agriculture despite poorer quality water from the Western Treatment Plant being used on market gardens around Werribee.
It says the eastern treatment plant is “90 per cent of the way there” (with producing water for human consumption) and taking it that one bit further is less expensive than building more “power hungry” desalination plants.
Foundation CEO John Gemmill said the “overwhelming response” to the petition “illustrates that our Clean Ocean Clean Water policy resonates with a large portion of the community”.
“This also means that the current Victorian Sustainable Water Strategy’s outright refusal to consider the use of purified recycled water to reduce ocean and riverine pollution and instead opting to rely on more desalination, including the proposed expansion of the existing plant at Wonthaggi and construction of one on Victoria’s surf coast is out of touch with community sentiment,” he said.
A three-point plan drawn up by the foundation includes upgrading the eastern treatment plant; capping pollutants being discharged from Victorian outfalls; and a “citizens jury” to decide uses for “purified recycled water”.
Gemmill said Clean Ocean Foundation would continue “raising awareness of this critical issue” in the lead-up to the Saturday 26 November state election.
Sign the Clean Ocean Foundation petition at: change.org/p/save-the-weedy-seadragon-modernise-victoria-s-water-policy-to-allow-use-of-recycled-purified-water