Every day millions of litres of water are pumped from the water supply system to people’s homes.
One third of the water is used outdoors, and the rest is used inside – for washing, cleaning, showering, cooking and flushing the toilet.
But where does all this water go once it disappears down the drains, pipes and plugholes in our home?
In urban areas the wastewater, or sewage, is pumped to the local sewage treatment plant, where water is treated so it can be returned to the water cycle.
MidCoast Council operates 15 sewage treatment plants across the Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester areas.
These plants range in size, from big plants such as the Forster Sewage Treatment Plant and Dawson Sewage Treatment Plant to smaller facilities for communities such as Manning Point, Stroud and Harrington.
All our sewage treatment plants treat water to a tertiary level and operate under licence from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) which sets standards for the treated water returned to the environment from the plant.
Over recent years many of our sewage treatment plants have been upgraded to provide a higher level of treatment and to be able to cope with growing populations – particularly in coastal areas.
We are also continually investigating expanding sewerage services to smaller villages, particularly those in environmentally sensitive areas.
Here is a three minute video explaining how our sewer system works:
Recycled Water Schemes
Recycling water for irrigation purposes is a great way to reduce the amount of drinking water our communities use every day.
MidCoast Water Services has embraced this idea and currently operates ten recycled water projects to reduce the use of both groundwater and drinking water being used for irrigation.
We have several recycling schemes operating where the recycled water is used for farm irrigation. These schemes are in Taree, Wingham, Coopernook, Lansdowne and Stroud.
These projects also minimise our impact on the environment and assist us to sustainably manage our community's water resources.
Our recycled water program also involves reusing treated effluent for open space irrigation - such as golf courses and sporting fields - and residential purposes.
Recycled water schemes have more recently been developed for four towns within our service area - Bulahdelah, Tuncurry, Hawks Nest and Harrington. Ongoing management of these schemes will ensure that the recycled water meets the quality required by the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling.
Bulahdelah Recycled Water Scheme
The Bulahdelah Recycled Water Scheme involves recycling treated effluent from the Bulahdelah Sewage Treatment Plant for irrigation of the Bulahdelah Golf Course.
It is estimated that over 40 million litres of recycled water will be used by the golf course on average each year.
The treatment plant has been augmented to allow the recycled water to be used for irrigation. The treated effluent from the sewage treatment plent is of a high enough quality to be fit for irrigation with resricted public access.
Harrington Recycled Water Scheme
The Harrington Water Recyling Scheme involves recycling treated effluent from the Harrington Sewage Treatment Plant for irrigation of the nearby Harrington Waters Golf Course. The golf course previously used groundwater for irrigation.
It is estimated that an average of 32 million litres of recycled water will be used by the golf course each year.
The treatment plant has been upgraded to include filtration, ultra violet (UV) disinfection and chlorination. This additional treatment will ensure that recycled water is fit for irrigation with restricted public access and will ensure that it meets the quality required by the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling.
Hawks Nest Recycled Water Scheme
The Hawks Nest Recycled Water Scheme sees treated water from the Hawks Nest Sewage Treatment Plant reused as irrigation on the nearby golf course, Myall Park and Providence Bay Park.
Previously we returned the treated water from the plant back to the water cycle through the sand dunes, however working with the golf course and other sites provides a beneficial use for the water and actively reduces the amount of groundwater extracted.
The scheme recycles more than 120 million litres of water reused each year, which is approximately 40 per cent of the total effluent treated at the Hawks Nest plant.
Irrigating with the treated water has also reduced the need for fertilisers at the golf course as trace nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous are present in the treated water.
The water produced by the Hawks Nest Recycled Water Scheme is fit for irrigation with unrestricted public access.
The project complies with Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling and NSW EPA guidelines on recycling.
The beneficial reuse of treated water on golf courses has been taking place for some years, with Kew and Maitland Golf Courses examples of successful reuse projects.
Tuncurry Recycled Water Scheme
Using recycled water on sporting fields and open spaces in Tuncurry was originally the result of a partnership project between MidCoast Water, Great Lakes Council, the NSW Environmental Trust and the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
The Tuncurry Recycled Water Scheme involves further treating effluent from the Hallidays Point Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at a new Recycled Water Treatment Plant constructed in Grey Gum Road, Tuncurry.
The recycled water is used to irrigate the golf course, sports fields and open spaces in Tuncurry. Previously these areas used mainly groundwater for irrigation - along with a small amount of town water.
As well as reducing the extraction of groundwater for irrigation, the scheme provides us with a beneficial way of reusing treated effluent from the Hallidays Point STP.
The treated effluent from the Hallidays Point STP is pumped to a storage reservoir at the recycled water treatment plant. From here it receives further treatment, including membrane filtration and chlorination disinfection to ensure water meets the quality required for irrigation with unrestricted access under the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling.
The scheme is part of the National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns Program and the Urban Sustainability Program.
The scheme involves the supply of recycled water to the fields at the North Tuncurry Sports Complex, the Tuncurry Cemetery, the Tuncurry Golf Course, the South Street fields, the Tuncurry Education Campus, and the Sporties entrance area.
Small Villages Program
There are a number of small communities in our Local Government Area that do not have access to water and sewerage services.
Seven of these villages have previously been recognised as the highest priority by MidCoast Council and the NSW Government for the provision of services.
- Stroud Road
- Coomba Park
- North Arm Cove
The estimated cost of providing both water and sewerage services to these communities is over $80 million. To provide sewerage services alone would be in the order of $50 million.
At present, the high cost to construct and then operate these water supply and sewerage schemes are unaffordable for both MidCoast Council and property owners in the villages, as contributions towards the capital expenditure are required from those who will benefit from the infrastructure.
Funding towards these projects has been sought from the NSW State Government, however the current funding rules result in less than 25% of the total projects cost and therefore do not provide enough support to enable MidCoast Council to proceed with the development of infrastructure for these communities.
In April 2016, the MidCoast Water Services' board resolved not to submit any further small village sewerage projects for funding assistance until the NSW Government gives further consideration to amending the funding rules. MidCoast Council has continued representation to the State Government to press this important issue.
We are continuing some planning activity to ensure we are prepared to proceed, if and when funding becomes available.
Some of the groundwork for the schemes in these villages has been done, as a result of State Government funding provided more than ten years ago. This funding allowed us to investigate the concepts and undertake community consultation for water and sewerage services to the villages mentioned.
We intend to have active community participation in the type of scheme selected and the location of specific assets like treatment plants and pump stations, and will continue working on the concept designs for the schemes including reviewing the options analyses and costings.
Further information on our small communities program is available by accessing the following documents:
Standards for wastewater are set out in the individual licences for each sewage treatment plant.
These licences are issued by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The number of tests, frequency of reporting and acceptable levels for each test vary, depending in where the plant discharges its treated effluent.
Licence conditions are related to the volume of the receiving waters and the sensitivity of the environment.
Testing of the water in the receiving environments like rivers, creeks or boreholes is done to ensure the effluent is returned safely into the natural water cycle.
MidCoast Council has an obligation under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to publish monitoring data collected according to the environment protection licence requirements.
EPA Licence Data
MidCoast Council holds 12 licences issued by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to regulate the operation of our sewage treatment plants and associated sewerage systems.
Each licence includes specific monitoring and compliance conditions. Most of the conditions deal with the quality of treated effluent being re-used or released into the water cycle.
We have an obligation under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to publish monitoring data collected according to the environment protection licence requirements within 14 days of results being available.
To view the EPA Licence, monitoring data collected by us under environment protection licence requirements, or information regarding licensing conditions and compliance for a specific Sewage Treatment Plant, please click the corresponding link below.
Requests to provide data collected under our licences can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pollution incident response management plans
Our response to pollution incidents are managed and reported according to the MidCoast Council Pollution Incident Response management plans developed for each sewage treatment plant holding an EPA licence.
Each plan outlines:
- hazard identification and risk assessment for each premises and associated sewerage network
- steps involved in responding to a pollution incident
- list of personnel responsible for enacting the plan
- notification procedure with relevant government agencies
- plan testing and maintenance
All plans are based on this generic version of the pollution incident response management plan(PDF, 833KB)
We communicates with customers and the community during and following system faults causing pollution incidents via door knocks, letterbox drops, radio announcements, warning signs and media releases where appropriate.
For any operational faults or incidents involving MidCoast Council's water assets, please contact the 24 hour faults and emergencies line 1300 133 455.