Geeveston, we have a problem….

27 10 2022

Because I tend to live in a bubble, I’m not that aware of the unsustainability going on around me. It’s just too easy to assume everything is going along smoothly. Until it doesn’t. We’re not sewered, but apparently quite a bit of our small town must be. And it’s causing problems, particularly when La Nina pours rain everywhere. As I type, the barometer is still falling and it’s bucketing down, again, and I’m over it to be honest…

Taswater, the typically bureaucratic entity that it is, has decided that the current sewer outfall into the Kermandie River on the outskirts of town is overloading the stream and causing issues. Which doesn’t surprise me. The problem with sewerage is sewerage. It’s antiquated 19th Century technology that was urgently needed when people in cities threw their night soil out the windows into the open drains running down streets, but in all honesty, this stuff has reached its use by date….

So Taswater wants to relocate the outfall so that it dumps treated sewage directly into the Huon estuary, some 100m offshore and a couple of kilometres from the current site. Which also happens to be where tourists camp and locals go fishing and swimming.. They claim it will be treated class B (which looked like tap water in the photos we were shown), just like the rest of Tasmania, but some people present, not least a couple of oyster farmers, reported they were frequently shut down (nine times this year alone!) because of plant failures causing contamination of the Huon River. So much for our pristine Tassie environment..

To make matters worse, the so called community consultation process has been deeply flawed, by all accounts. I attended my first public meeting on the matter last night, having missed the last one due to clashing timelines. It seems to me that the locals are just about unanimously against the scheme, and up in arms about the lack of consultation I witnessed. Lots of finger waving and “this is best for you”. When asked was this a done deal…… well, no answer. And every time we questioned their plans, the reply was “do you you want a substandard result or the best possible?” Well, sorry guys, but trebling the outflow volume IS substandard, this day and age we should be reducing pollution, not believing increasing it is state of the art..

I was pleasantly surprised at how well some attendees had done their homework, being able to quote straight out of an EPA report to contradict what was presented to us. A few among us extolled the virtues of not mixing potable water with human waste in the first place by using composting toilets, but all that fell on deaf ears.

Engineers, and I’m one myself let’s not forget, only know engineering solutions; and the problems are social, not technological. It’s high time people started taking responsibility for their footprints.

Take the common problem in suburbia where storm water drains are somehow hooked up to sewer lines. I can’t even get my head around how this can happen in the first place, but every time it rains, like now, the system gets overloaded and fails. The pumps simply cannot keep up….. my solution to this would be compulsory inspection of all sewered properties. It wouldn’t take long, surely, to check out the downpipes and see where they’re attached? Even if Taswater had to fix these problems at their expense, it would surely be cheaper than the ten or more million dollars the new scheme is said to cost. It may even be cheaper to convert a whole lot of households to composting toilets, where appropriate.

It was suggested that investing into water tanks to buffer the stormwater peaks might be a good idea. But, we were told, it’s not public policy to invest into private properties. Too close to communism maybe? If it saves money and the environment, who really cares where the taxpayers’ money goes?

On top of all that of course, there’s not the slightest hint from anyone about the methods that will be in place to service all this hi tech stuff once limits to growth really hits the fan and residents can’t pay their rates and the council and Taswater shed staff to save money. With diesel shortages becoming the norm in America and Europe, how long before fuel is rationed in Tasmania and trucks and utes can’t be driven to sites for maintenance? I even wonder if it will be built at all if the serious economic downturn on the horizon arrives early.

Geeveston, we do indeed have a problem..