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Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant

Parliamentary Committees

Mr CREGAN (Kavel) (11:01): I move:

That the 19th report of the committee for the Fifty-Fourth Parliament, entitled Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant Sludge Management Upgrade, be noted.

The committee heard from SA Water that there is a need to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in Port Lincoln. That plant is located just over four kilometres from the town centre. The committee received evidence that the growth in the Port Lincoln catchment has contributed to an increase in load to the sludge treatment process at the plant.

The committee was informed that sludge lagoons were nearing capacity and that this had contributed in a material way to a number of environmental incidents, and evidence was sought in relation to those incidents. The committee understands that the Environment Protection Authority reviewed SA Water’s operating licence and included an environmental improvement program annexure to the Port Lincoln wastewater treatment licence.

The committee also had the benefit of evidence that the proposed upgrade will address the requirements I have outlined to the house and the joint issues of odour and leakage in the old containment lagoons. The committee has been advised that the project proposal received full financial approval from the SA Water board for expenditure in the amount of $18.794 million for the completion of the project, and the estimated time frame for practical project completion is December 2020.

Written and oral evidence regarding the upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant was considered by the committee. SA Water officials provided assurances to the committee that acquittals were received from the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. The committee heard that the Crown Solicitor had deemed the works and procedures followed by SA Water in relation to the bringing forward of this project to be lawful.

The committee is satisfied that the proposal has been subject to appropriate agency consultation and also meets the criteria for examination of projects, as described in the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991. Based on the evidence considered, and pursuant to section 12C of the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991, the Public Works Committee reports to parliament that it recommends the proposed public works.

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (11:04): It gives me pleasure to rise today to speak to the Public Works Committee report, the 19th report, on the Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant sludge management upgrade—always very topical, particularly in Port Lincoln when the lagoon is filled and the odour wafts across the city. The first one to hear about it is the local member, so I am pleased that this report has been tabled and the work is now going to go ahead.

The Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant is located at Billy Lights Point and was first commissioned in 1994. The treatment process consists of a screen and grit removal facility followed by two aeration basins operated as an activated sludge intermittent decant extended aeration (IDEA) process, discharging into sludge and polishing lagoons.

Treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plant is either reclaimed by the Port Lincoln city council’s tertiary treatment system or discharged to the ocean via an outfall. Waste sludge from the IDEA tanks is stored and stabilised in four sludge lagoons before being periodically dewatered and used for beneficial agricultural purposes.

The growth in the Port Lincoln catchment, which the Chairman also mentioned in his report, has led to an increase in load to the sludge treatment process at the Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant. This has meant that the lagoons are approaching capacity and are at times overloaded, resulting in a number of odour incidents being recorded in recent years. In addition, seepage incidents from the sludge lagoon onto the adjacent beach have also occurred in the past due to the lagoon’s deteriorating condition.

As a result of these environmental incidents—odour and seepage in 2013 and earlier incidents in the late 1990s—the EPA reviewed SA Water’s operating licence and conducted a risk prioritisation review. This determined to include an EIP annexure to the Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant licence in 2014. This EIP directed SA Water to prevent leakage and uncontrolled overflows from any sludge lagoon and ensure that odour does not exceed six odour units at the nearest residential boundary. I am not going to speculate on what one odour unit is, let alone six; we can only imagine.

The EPA approved SA Water’s request to defer its compliance with the EIP until 2020 on the basis that an efficient and prudent solution could be developed whilst mitigating any immediate risk of wastewater odour to the Port Lincoln community or seepage of sludge to the nearby beach.

The objective of the proposed works is to upgrade the existing wastewater sludge management system at the Port Lincoln Wastewater Treatment Plant. This involves implementation of an anaerobic digester/sludge stabilisation system to:

meet the requirements of the EIP to ensure that leakage of uncontrolled overflows from the sludge lagoons are prevented, and that wastewater odour does not exceed six odour units at the nearest residential boundary;

accommodate current and future growth—that is, over the next 30 years—for residential and industrial communities, including the seafood industry. I might add that we all know very well that Port Lincoln is primarily a fishing town and that a lot of the fish are processed in the industrial area of Port Lincoln, which is a good thing to occur. The wastewater treatment plant needs to be able to accommodate the outflow from the fish processing plants but also be mindful of the fact that some of that water is quite saline in nature and so has to be ameliorated; and

the current proposal also needs to improve operability and maintainability of the wastewater treatment plant, including the accommodation of transported waste.

The project is in response to the need for necessary upgrades, as we have said, due to the increase in load to the sludge treatment process at the wastewater treatment plant. This has meant that the lagoons are approaching capacity and are at times overloaded.

SA Water was presented with a number of options, and option A was the preferred option decided upon. This particular option involves the replacement of the sludge lagoons with the sludge thickening anaerobic digestion and mechanical dewatering processes, as well as on-site storage, which is compliant with EPA standards, plus the remediation of one existing lagoon.

Option A also had the fourth lowest NPV at OE stage but was the most preferred option as per the MCA outcome, with minimum risk to SA Water while still ensuring that the requirements of the EIP are met. This option also had a significantly smaller footprint, allowing more room for future expansion if needed; if the Port Lincoln and the seafood industry continue to grow, then that is a very real possibility. It also presents the opportunity to add co-digestion and cogeneration in the future. There are no major business risks and operational risks identified in the preferred option.

In July 2017, option A was endorsed by SA Water’s executive steering committee. The scope has not changed since that option was endorsed. However, further investigations followed by the dual early contractor involvement process resulted in refinement of the project requirements, mitigation of some risks and a competitive design and construction total out-turn cost. This resulted in an overall reduction in the capital cost by 14 per cent, from $21.9 million to $18.79 million, which, as I understand it, remains as the final cost.

Congratulations to the committee on good work, and congratulations to SA Water on finally progressing to this project. The fish processors and the residents of Port Lincoln will be only too pleased to get those odour units down.


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