Sewerage in the harbour at Elizabeth Bay – Council and Sydney Water debacle

There was much excitement in Elizabeth Bay for the wrong reasons last week when people found themselves swimming in the harbour amidst untreated sewerage. The Wentworth Courier has a story on it here.

The problem is that untreated sewerage is stored with stormwater somewhere near the park and it overflows when there’s a lot of stormwater. The mixture is allowed to escape into the harbour rather than back up into people’s homes. A friend told me that Sydney Water has an ongoing program to fix this up all around the harbour.

People have known about this situation in Elizabeth Bay for a while – the problem is that the City of Sydney recently installed two sets of stairs in the renovated Beare and Rotary Parks down to the harbour water without (i) the problem being fixed up, and (ii) letting people know about the problem.

A Council staff member told me that they had contacted Sydney Water a number of times telling them that the park renovation was a perfect time to fix up the problem and that Sydney Water said that it had been “investigating” it.

So it didn’t fix the problem. Council also didn’t let people know of the potential overflow problem. After the overlow last Friday I put up a paper A3 sign warning people of the potential for untreated sewerage in the water. According to the Wentworth Courier story, Sydney Water thinks that it’s Council’s responsibility to let people know, while Council thinks it’s Sydney Water’s. Given that Council installed the stairs, one might think that Council should inform people that there could be an overflow situation.

At the Council meeting last Monday, the Lord Mayor attacked Sydney Water without addressing Council’s role, but I have heard that Council may put up some notice about the potential untreated sewerage.

There are two major points there – firstly, the untreated sewerage problem should be dealt with, and secondly, as Council installed the stairs facilitating people swimming in the harbour, it has a responsibility to inform people of the potential problem and not buckpass to Sydney Water.

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