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Stuarts Point septic spill evacuees demand fix to 'problematic system'

Thursday April 1, 2021 - 12:18 EDT
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Stuarts Point resident, Roger Earl was among those evacuated during multiple septic spills last Friday night.  - ABC

The overflow of septic tanks in Roger Earl?s coastal village left him and other residents infuriated, but sadly not surprised.

Mr Earl?s home was among at least 45 homes evacuated at Stuarts Point on the NSW Mid North Coast last Friday night. 

He and other angry residents hoped a community meeting earlier this week would provide some solutions about how to prevent such a disaster from happening again.

?We were told nothing,? Mr Earl said.

?Why is the water and the sewerage are like they are? They should have been repaired years ago,? he said.

Stuarts Point isn?t connected to a centralised sewerage system, most properties use old septic tanks.

The outdated infrastructure coupled with the shallow depth of the water table in the area heightens the risk of septic spills.

Recent flooding exacerbated the underlying problem and caused widespread contamination.

Seven days after they were evacuated, some residents have been allowed to return home. 

Others, like David Griffiths, face a confronting damage bill after 15 centimetres of septic waste seeped into his home. 

"All the doors are swelling, all the plasterboard is swelling. A lot of furniture was in the water. So it's gone,? Mr Griffiths said. 

"I think we'll be trying for a knockdown, rebuild and raise it up."

For resident Ray Moorcroft, the sewage that had risen in his toilet bowl on Thursday was a warning sign of the disaster to unfold.

?We've had to start going looking at friend?s places," he said.

"So it was starting to be a problem, how we're just going to do basic things like going to the toilet.?

The Kempsey Shire Council said it had provided residents access to public amenities if required.

Mr Moorcroft wants the council to fast track its plan to connect Stuarts Point to a modernised sewage system like the rest of the shire.

?I?ve been pushing even before this flooding," he said.

"This is a problematic system.?

The construction of the Stuarts Point sewage scheme is expected to begin in 2023.

The council?s director of operations, Robert Fish said the project had been delayed due to a protracted Aboriginal land claim in the area where the treatment plant would be built.

He said the much-needed upgrade remained a priority.

?We are aware of its importance in terms of the Stuarts Point community and will be continuing to progress it ? as fast as we can,? Mr Fish said.

The recent floods and their devastating effects seen at Stuarts Point emphasise the need for vital upgrades.

University of NSW  Global Water Institute Associate Professor Stuart Khan said existing state government programs to update water and sewage infrastructure in rural areas should be expedited.

?We have a lot of work that we need to do to make sure all of our drinking water and wastewater systems are brought up to speed,? Dr Khan said.

?In order to be as resilient as possible in the face of ongoing challenges from climate change and the extreme weather events that come with that.?


© ABC 2021

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