Current issues

Kyneton Water Reclamation Plant

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. Instead, Coliban discharges the treated wastewater into the Campaspe River under strict conditions set out in the EPA licence. To be compliant with EPA's licence, discharge must not exceed 20 per cent of the river flow.

In June 2019, lower rainfall and no flows in the Campaspe River prevented Coliban Water from discharging treated wastewater in compliance with its EPA licence. In particular the condition requiring a dilution flow in the Campaspe River prior to discharge being allowed, was not met. The treatment lagoons had filled to capacity and Coliban Water discharged treated wastewater to the Campaspe River outside of its EPA licence.

What is EPA doing

The Campaspe River has been flowing less in recent years. EPA cannot accept this is the result of rare climatic circumstances.

EPA requires Coliban Water to undertake additional work to account for the Campaspe River:

  • “no flow” and
  • “low flow”

conditions. This is to meet licence compliance.

EPA is monitoring the operation of the Kyneton WRP closely. EPA conducted an unannounced licence compliance assessment of the plant on 3 October 2019. This assessment checks that the plant is operating in accordance with the conditions set out in the EPA licence. EPA did not identify any significant operational issues during the inspection. 

Further inspections of the Kyneton WRP were conducted on 18 October and 1 November 2019. The October inspection was in response to a breakdown of one of the ultraviolet disinfections units and community concerns about the available storage capacity of treated wastewater. The inspection confirmed that a new ultraviolet disinfection unit had arrived at the site. It also confirmed that the site had 10 – 15 days of lagoon storage capacity and that irrigation of the treated wastewater would commence in the week starting 21 October 2019. This would further increase available storage capacity. 

The November inspection was to confirm the new interim ultraviolet disinfection unit was in operation and to conduct an additional inspection of the irrigation system. EPA provided advice to Coliban Water on aspects of the irrigation system that could be investigated to enhance efficiency and sustainability. 

Based on our inspections and information provided by Coliban Water, EPA considers the risk of Coliban Water needing to discharge outside the EPA licence conditions in the near term very low. The risk is reducing further with the commencement of the irrigation season. EPA will continue to monitor the operation of the Kyneton WRP closely. Coliban Water is providing EPA with regular updates on current and projected storage capacities, per our request.

EPA has issued two legal notices to Coliban Water that require it to:

  • Undertake the required works or processes addressing storage constraints at the Kyneton WRP.
  • Install a flow meter upstream of the Kyneton WRP discharge point by January 2020. It also requires Coliban Water to commence daily monitoring using data from the newly installed station by February 2020.

EPA has laid 11 charges against Coliban Water under the Environment Protection Act 1970. This follows a comprehensive investigation into the release of treated effluent to the Campaspe River, outside of their EPA licence conditions. Charges relate to discharges that occurred during May and August 2019, and compliance with licence conditions during the 2018-2019 licence reporting period.

The charges allege that Coliban Water released treated effluent to the Campaspe River in breach of their licence, causing or permitting an environmental hazard and pollution of waters.

Breaching licence conditions, causing or permitting an environmental hazard, and pollution of waters are criminal offences under sections s27, s27A and s39 of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

As the matter is now before the courts, EPA will be making no further comment.

EPA's role

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

EPA has conducted sampling of the Campaspe River and Snipes Creek (a tributary of the Campaspe River). This has resulted in targeted compliance and enforcement work in these catchments. As a result, two discharges to Snipes Creek have now been stopped.

Coliban Water is implementing a $2.1 million Kyneton Offsets Project.  More information on the Project is available from the Coliban Water website.

Under this proposal, Coliban Water seeks to use these environmental improvements to temporarily lessen the licensed dilution ratio. EPA has not formally accepted an application for licence amendment. We have advised Coliban Water that additional information would be required if they wish to lodge a formal application.

If received, the licence amendment application will be assessed to determine if it meets all the necessary requirements to protect the environment and human health. EPA will only consider a licence amendment if Coliban Water can demonstrate net environmental or public health benefit.

Risks to human health and the environment

On 14 July 2019, the health warnings along the river were lifted, Coliban Water provided water flow and quality data to EPA. This showed the Campaspe River had good flows in July 2019. The good flows meant Coliban Water could meet their EPA discharge licence requirements for water quality.

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.

Reuse proposal from Hardwicks Meatworks

Hardwicks Meatworks, an abattoir, is one of the major generators of wastewater sent to the Kyneton WRP for treatment. Coliban Water has announced phase one of its plan to upgrade the Kyneton WRP, which involves an agreement with Hardwicks Meatworks.  For more information on the project, and the works planned for phase one, visit the Coliban Water website.

For phase one to proceed, EPA requires Hardwicks Meatworks 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. EPA has assessed and endorsed the revised EIP and considers that it meets the Use of reclaimed water, and therefore protects human health and environment objectives.

How will  be kept informed?

  • Visit the EPA website
  • call EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC)

Page last updated on 28 Nov 2019