Current issues

Campaspe river wastewater contamination

What happened

Coliban Water treats wastewater at Kyneton's Water Reclamation Plant (WRP). Coliban Water stores the treated wastewater onsite in a series of lagoons. During summer months Coliban irrigates treated wastewater on pasture and provides this reclaimed water to other third-parties for reuse. Irrigation is not required in the autumn, winter and early spring months. Coliban discharges the treated water into the Campaspe River. The discharge to be compliant with the EPA license must not exceed 20% of the river flow. Lower rainfall and no flows in the Campaspe River prevented Coliban Water from discharging treated wastewater in compliance with its EPA licence. The treatment lagoons store the excess treated wastewater. These have filled to capacity.

In June 2019, the WRP discharged treated wastewater to the Campaspe River. There was no flow in the river. As a result, Coliban Water was non-compliant with its EPA licence did not meet the dilution requirements.

What is EPA doing

The Campaspe River has been flowing less. EPA can no longer accept that this is the result of rare climatic circumstances.

EPA is requiring Coliban Water to undertake additional work to account for the Campaspe River “no flow” and “low flow” conditions. This is to ensure licence compliance is met.
EPA has issued Coliban Water with a legal notice. It requires options to resolve the non-compliances experienced at the Kyneton WRP. Coliban Water will provide EPA with these options by the end of August 2019. EPA will assess the adequacy of the proposed works. The aim is to resolve all non-compliances. If there is not a high level of confidence in the proposed works, EPA will require additional works. A further notice will be issued for the actual works to be undertaken. Coliban Water will be obliged to undertake the works within a set timeframe outlined in the notice.

EPA's role

EPA’s licence allows Coliban Water to discharge treated wastewater to the Campaspe River. Licenses set out discharge parameters. This includes water quality at the discharge point and any required dilution requirements with river flow. The Kyneton WRP is required to meet a dilution ratio of 1 in 5.  This means treated water cannot make up more than 20% flow in the Campaspe River. Provided compliance meets with the licence, there is no significant impacts on the river.

EPA has issued notices to Coliban Water to undertake short term works at Kyneton. This is to avoid any further non-compliant discharges in the coming months. The notices provides EPA with detailed options to prevent non-compliant discharges in the future.

EPA has conducted sampling of the Campaspe River and Snipes Creek (a tributary of the Campaspe). This has resulted in targeted compliance and enforcement work in these catchments. EPA has required improvement works as a result of these inspections.  As a result, one discharge was stopped. An active investigation is still in progress. Further site inspections and sampling are planned. 

Risks to human health and the environment

Coliban Water provided water flow and quality data to EPA. This showed the Campaspe River had good flows in July 2019. These good flows mean Coliban Water can meet their EPA discharge licence requirements for water quality. On 14 July 2019, EPA advised Coliban Water to lift the health warnings along the river.

Discharge of treated wastewater to the Campaspe River form part of the normal practice of the plant. The discharge occurs under strict licence conditions. EPA will continue to monitor Coliban Water’s compliance. If EPA detects any other non-compliances, we will take appropriate action to protect the community.

EPA does not recommend drinking untreated river water in any river system.

Next steps

Hardwicks abattoir is one of the major generators of wastewater sent to the Kyneton WRP for treatment. Hardwicks is working with Coliban Water on a proposal. The abattoir would accept treated wastewater to irrigate paddocks owned by the abattoir for stock grazing. EPA requires Hardwicks to develop an Environment Improvement Plan (EIP), consistent with Use of reclaimed water (publication 464.2). EPA endorsement is required prior to treated water being used for irrigation.

Hardwicks held a community meeting about the proposal on the 29 May 2019. Local residents raised concerns about:

•             biosecurity

•             spray drift

•             the risk of contamination of soil and surface water

•             and tree removal.

EPA was advised on 31 May 2019 by Hardwicks they would be submitting a revised EIP. This is intended to address concerns raised in the community meeting. EPA will assess any revised EIP against EPA’s reuse guidelines. EPA will endorse the proposal if it meets these guidelines. Provided these are met, then the environment and public health objectives are protected. EPA will assess both the reuse on the Hardwicks’s site and the construction of the treated water storage.

Separate to the EIP, Hardwicks are working through issues relating to tree removal. These were in relation to concerns raised by DELWP and the Macedon Ranges Shire Council. The potential impact to the habitat of the Golden Sun moth (Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988) is also to be addressed.

What can community expect in next three months?

  • An update on the progress of investigations.
  • EPA assesses the options provided by Coliban Water.
  • Coliban Water issued with notice to undertake works.
  • Clarity on the Hardwicks proposal.
  • Results from Snipes Creek sampling and inspections.
  • EPA participating in meetings held by Coliban Water or Hardwicks.

Contact if you have questions.

Page last updated on 30 Jul 2019