Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has tightened the regulatory controls on Wannon Water’s Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Works.

EPA Regional Manager for the South West, Carolyn Francis, says the regulator has imposed additional licence conditions following incidents where plastic litter and pieces of fat were found along Shelly Beach.

“The plant works under an EPA licence which sets limits that are designed to protect the environment and ensure the plant’s operations live up to the community’s expectations,” Ms Francis said.

“And while Wannon Water has taken practical steps to improve the plant’s environmental performance, the changes EPA has made to the licence have tightened the requirements and set clearer limits to what is permissible,” she said.

The amended licence includes a new condition that the discharge of wastewater must not contain visible floating foam, oils, grease or litter.

While the licence already applied annual median limits for wastewater quality indicators, (including ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, total nitrogen and total phosphorus), the amendments have now introduced maximum limits as well.  

“Those maximum limits mean a long run of good days can’t balance out a short burst of very bad ones,” Ms Francis said.

“Wannon Water is introducing a number of additional measures and upgrades to ensure that litter and fats cannot be discharged from the plant and EPA is maintaining an overview of these works,” she said.

“The tighter controls now built into the licence more clearly define how much is too much, and better match the community’s expectations.”

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 the company may appeal to Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) against any new or amended conditions within 21 days.

The amended licence for the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Works is available on the EPA Portal https://portal.epa.vic.gov.au/irj/portal

Victoria’s new environment laws take effect on 1 July 2020 and introduce a general environmental duty requiring businesses and individuals to prevent harm to the environment and human health. Learn more on EPA’s website at www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/laws/new-laws

Members of the public can report pollution by calling EPA’s 24 hour hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).

Reviewed 3 December 2019