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% 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 has issued Coliban Water with a legal notice. It requires options to resolve the non-compliances experienced at the Kyneton WRP. Coliban Water has provided the information requested under notice to EPA. EPA is assessing the adequacy of the proposed works. The aim is to resolve all non-compliances. If there is not a high level of confidence in the proposed works, EPA will require additional works. A further notice will be issued for the actual works to be undertaken. Coliban Water will be obliged to undertake the works within a set timeframe outlined in the notice.

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% flow in the Campaspe River. Provided compliance meets 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). This has resulted in targeted compliance and enforcement work in these catchments. EPA has required improvement works as a result of these inspections.  One discharge to Snipes Creek has been stopped. EPA has also issued a notice requiring works to stop a further potential discharge to Snipes Creek.

Coliban Water has put forward a proposal to EPA to implement an offsets program, where upstream works to improve water quality are undertaken. 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, but if received it 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 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. Hardwicks is working with Coliban Water on a proposal. The abattoir would accept treated wastewater to irrigate paddocks owned by the abattoir for stock grazing. EPA requires Hardwicks 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.

Hardwicks has submitted a revised EIP to EPA for assessments. EPA expects the revised EIP to address the concerns raised by the community at the meeting held by Hardwicks on 29 May 2019.

EPA will assess the revised EIP against the Use of reclaimed water (publication 464.2). EPA will endorse the proposal if it meets these guidelines. Provided these are met, then the environment and public health objectives are protected. EPA will assess both the reuse on the Hardwicks’s site and the construction of the treated water storage.

Separate to the EIP, Hardwicks are working through issues relating to tree removal. These were in relation to concerns DELWP and the Macedon Ranges Shire Council raised. The potential impact to the habitat of the Golden Sun moth (Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988) is also to be addressed.

What can community expect in next three months?

  • An update on the progress of investigations and legal notices issued to Coliban Water.
  • Coliban Water issued with notice to undertake works.
  • Clarity on the Hardwicks proposal.
  • Results from Snipes Creek sampling and inspections.
  • EPA participating in meetings held by Coliban Water or Hardwicks.

Contact 1300 EPA VIC or if you have questions.

Page last updated on 3 Oct 2019