New work by Sydney Water should improve air quality at the North Head Wastewater Treatment Plant. The government agency plans to replace the plant's odour scrubber - air pollution control system - which is near the end of its life. Sydney Water released a statement this month saying it will replace the existing scrubber with nine bio-trickling filters and replace or repair associated infrastructure including duct work, a water tank and ventilation stacks. Odour scrubbers function to remove particulates and/or gases from industrial exhaust streams, reducing odours and improving air quality.
The news will be welcomed by Manly residents, particularly in the Little Manly Precinct, who have regularly complained of bad smells from the plant. Sydney Water had previously said that the scrubber would not be replaced until 2015.
Sydney Water has prepared a Review of Environmental Factors which will be publicly available from Oct 23 to Nov 11 at Manly Council, Manly Library and Manly Environment Centre.
Information related to North Head odours and Manly's troubled existence with the sewerage treatment plant is below.
This Odour Map, from a recent Sydney Water presentation, shows the spread of odours from the North Head Wastewater Treatment Plant. 1OU (odour unit) means that about half the population can smell an odour.
A recent report from the NSW Ombudsman reveals poor maintenance and operational practices at the North Head Wastewater Treatment Plant and the difficulty in forcing the plant's owner, Sydney Water, to deal with the problem.
The report, dated August 2013, deals with complaints made by several people about strong sewage odours on North Head on February 24 2010. The odours were so bad that people reported headaches, sore eyes, dry retching and difficulty breathing. The symptoms suggested an emission of hydrogen sulphide gas, probably caused by the North Head Wastewater Treatment Plant operated by Sydney Water.
The matter was referred to the ombudsman's office after it was inadequately dealt with by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) - formerly the Department of Environment Climate Change and Water.
The ombudsman found that the original EPA investigation had raised a number of serious concerns, including "an apparent failure" by Sydney Water to properly maintain or operate the North Head plant and equipment. Record keeping at North Head, and training and supervision of staff were also found to be problematic.
However in October 2010 the EPA dropped the investigation without reaching a conclusion and without taking any action against Sydney Water.
The ombudsman's brief was not to investigate the original odour offence, but to consider how the EPA had dealt with it.
The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at helping the EPA force Sydney Water and other government agencies to comply with their environmental responsibilities. The ombudsman did not criticise the EPA's original investigation or take action against Sydney Water.
More information is available at sydneywatertalk.com.au
Let us know what you think? Should Sydney Water do more to make sure Manly's air and ocean outfall clean.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.