‘Green' is way to go

STRICT effluent discharge requirements in the Sunshine Coast region mean Unitywater is faced with $500million of upgrades on its plant equipment.

And this is just part of major funding hurdles Unitywater chief executive Jon Black outlined to a Noosa ratepayers' meeting in Tewantin last week.

Mr Black had his hopes pinned firmly to "green engineering" solutions, like the construction of wetlands and forest plantations to act as natural filters.

The meeting was told Unitywater had control of enough pipeline to run from the Sunshine Coast along the coastline all the way to Perth and much of it was in need of an upgrade.

The Coast had 900 pumping stations whereas Brisbane had only 50.

Mr Black told the Noosa News that under a system inherited from the former Maroochy Council, Eumundi waste water was pumped to Maroochy for treatment. But a new $19m treatment plant was set to come online this year in Cooroy.

He said the smart course of action would be to hook up the two nearby systems.

He said in the past 10 years, the Department of Environment and Resource Management "has been screwing us down on our nutrient levels".

He said where five parts per million nitrogen levels were acceptable in discharged water, and two parts per million phosphorous, the new licensing requirements were three parts per million and one part per million, respectively. "On the Sunshine Coast, all the treatments have now got licence requirements going down to that three and one levels," he said.

"At the moment they're all round 7/5 and 5/2 if we're lucky, so we're facing up to $500 million of upgrades on the Sunshine Coast." Two key pilot trials - one at Maleny and the other at the Coolum waste water treatment plants - were under way to help halve the cost of plant upgrades from $30m to $15m.

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