Campaign to save Evans Head lagoon
By JANE GARDNER
ENVIRONMENTALIST Hugh Nicholson has begun a campaign to either fix up or relocate the sewage plant many people blame for causing the deaths of fish and bird life at Salty Lagoon in the Broadwater National Park.
Mr Nicholson, secretary of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regional advisory committee, has written to NSW Environment Minister Bob Debus with a list of questions they want addressed and calls to reassess the permit allowing effluent from the Evans Head sewage plant to enter the national park.
He said the NPWS had been reporting the issue for years, with no response.
"I can't believe this has gone on for so long and nothing has been done," Mr Nicholson said.
"In calling for an inquiry we expect the Environmental Protection Agency, NPWS and local council to get together to prepare a contingency plan so this mess does not happen again."
The Department of Environment and Conservation has identified four factors which contributed to the fish and bird kill on December 7.
Its analysis found the day was the hottest on record.
Oxygen levels in the water were at 10 per cent of what they should have been and that water levels in the lagoon had dropped dramatically.
However, John Dengate, director of public affairs for the Department of Environment and Conservation, believes one of the most pertinent contributing factors was effluent from the Evans Head sewage plant that had been pumped into the lagoon for 'many decades'.
"No one doubts the sewage plant needs to be upgraded, and the Richmond Valley Council has been working on that for many years, but the work could only be described as disappointing.
"Wetlands are often seen as a kind of dumping ground for sewage and effluent waste, and many do well with the nutrients, but there is a limit."
However, Richmond Valley Council general manager Brian Wilkinson maintains the event was triggered by natural causes.
"There are no results that indicate otherwise and there was no abnormal discharge in the days leading up to it," Mr Wilkinson said.
"Of course, there is no denying discharge would play a part in the nutrients found in the lagoon."
Plans to upgrade the sewage plant have been under way since last November.