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Will the Coorong soon be known as the ‘Poorong’?

Not unless you’ve got a stupid sense of humour, but that was the question on my lips upon hearing that 70,000 litres of sewerage had been accidentally spilled into the Murray River.

A maintenance worker from Albury City Council was the culprit, and Council’s now paying the price after pleading guilty in the NSW Land and Environment Court last Thursday to a charge of polluting waters.

Council was fined $45,500 plus $18,000 costs after the spill, which occurred just over a year ago, and so Council should be. In handing down the sentence, her Honour Justice Rachel Pepper found that in light of the test results and the volume of sewage - which spilled out over two consecutive days - there was a potential for harm and that harm was foreseeable.

As we’re all aware, sewerage (human effluent) is toxic stuff: a combination of pathogens, diseases, nutrients, urine, faeces and God knows what else - bad news for the health of the lifeblood of our nation. Contamination like this could lead to nutrient enrichment in the water causing an algal bloom and worst case scenario, could potentially lead to fish kills.

Farmers irrigating their crops wouldn’t be a fan of the resulting ‘craptamination’, either.

Her Honour also found that although council employees had taken steps to try and prevent any overflow, it did not have measures in place to deal with an overflow if those steps failed. Justice Pepper found that there were feasible, practical and cheap methods to prevent or at least reduce the discharge to the Murray River but that Council had failed to implement them.

Lisa Corbyn from the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water said the fine was a reminder that protection of waterways from pollutants is a priority at all times, including during Council maintenance operations. "Everyone should ensure at all times they take every action necessary to prevent our precious waterways from being polluted,” she said.

Posted: Wednesday September 30, 2009

Published: Sep 30, 2009 9:37am by philippa.

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