Pressure rises on O'Farrell to abandon plan to use Hawkesbury River as a toilet: Government documents warn of devastating impact

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Government documents warn of devastating impacts on the Hawkesbury River if Sydney Water goes ahead with its plan to increase the amount of effluent it releases into the river, Shadow Minister for Water, Luke Foley said today.

Mr Foley and Hornsby Mayor, Nick Berman will tomorrow join forces with local residents to release explosive government documents that reveal the devastating impact Sydney Water’s plans will have on the Hawkesbury River.

"The O'Farrell Government has to step in and force Sydney Water to withdraw this cost cutting plan to increase the amount of effluent it releases into the Hawkesbury River," Mr Foley said.

"Under Sydney Water's plan, an extra 3.9 tonnes of nitrogen and 2.1 tonnes of phosphorus will be discharged into the Hawkesbury River each year from its Brooklyn Sewerage Treatment Plant.

"The Environment Protection Authority has already warned these nutrient increases will have a devastating impact on the health of the river and local industry. This plan must be stopped immediately."

In a submission to IPART on Sydney Water prices, the Office of Environment and Heritage and Environment Protection Authority warned increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus would:

  • Increase toxic algal blooms which are likely to create health risks;
  • Clog irrigation pipes due to weed fouling;
  • Force a decline in commercial fishing species;
  • Increase the need for weed harvesting and chemical control;
  • Reduce access to the river for humans and livestock; and
  • Reduce opportunities for recreational swimming, water skiing and boating.

"Decades of work to reduce toxic algae blooms in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Rivers will be ruined by the O'Farrell Government's unprecedented decision to put cost cutting measures above our environment," Mr Foley said.

"The State Opposition, local council, residents and industry have all been calling on the O'Farrell Government to force Sydney Water to withdraw this plan, but instead they have sat on their hands.

"The O'Farrell Government has already let this go on far too long. The Premier needs to step in and dump Sydney Water's plans to trash the Hawkesbury River."

Submissions to the Department of Planning on Sydney Water's application to increase the effluent it releases into the Hawkesbury River:

From the Office of Environment and Heritage:

"Approval of the proposed higher limits would result in the order of an additional 2.1 tonnes of total phosphorus and 3.9 tonnes of total nitrogen being discharged into the estuary each year."

From the Department of Primary Industries:

"The proposal has the potential to undermine broader government policy objectives aimed at reducing nutrient inputs into the Hawkesbury-Nepean Rivers."

From the Office of the Hawkesbury-Nepean:

"The modelling does not appear to have considered the water quality characteristics of the estuary into which the treated effluent is discharged, when predicting the impacts of the proposed modification."

From the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority:

"The environmental benefits of the works to reduce nutrient loads could be undermined by an increase in pollution loads from the sewerage treatment plant. This may result in a perverse outcome to the river and the industries that depend on it."