There is an interesting difference of opinion in the State government’s bureaucracy about proposals to increase Sydney Water’s plant capacity at North Head.
On 22 March 2016 the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) released a draft report on Sydney Water’s proposed expenditure for the period July 2016 to June 2020.
Sydney Water had sought funding for a project to amplify biosolids production at North Head Sewage Treatment Plant at a cost of $40.1M. They proposed to install two additional digesters to improve the plant’s capacity to treat sewage arising from the population growth in the catchment.
IPART had engaged a consultant to consider Sydney Water’s proposals and they recommended that only one digester be approved and funding reduced by $13.3 million. They suggested that that Sydney Water had not made a strong enough case to warrant a second digester to cope with anticipated demand.
IPART accepted this view.
Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) response to the draft report
The EPA was concerned that the proposed reduction in capital and operating expenditure will result in a deterioration of performance of Sydney Water’s sewage reticulation networks and treatment plants.
Sydney Water’s response to the draft report
Sydney Water maintained that the expenditure of $40.1 million for the North Head WWTP was required to address the lack of capacity in the digesters and other limitations at the plant.
The drivers cited by Sydney Water for the expenditure at North Head included the plant’s reliability, performance, inadequate digestion, high transport costs and odour complaints as well as the plant’s ability to meet the environment protection licence effluent quality and load limits.
The Community response
A number of members of the Manly community, including the Manly Environment Centre, also made submissions on IPART’s draft report.
Given Sydney Water & Coastal Catchments pay a huge dividend to the State Government (2015 - $664m and expected to be close to a $1billion in 2016) clearly the money is there to upgrade the facility - it is a no brainer. Sydney Water want it, the community want it and the growing population of Sydney needs it.
We will be watching very closely how this interplay of opinions plays out and will keep you informed of the outcome.
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.