What is happening at Smithton?

An incident was declared late last year (2016) because of a spike in complaints relating to odour from the Smithton sewage treatment plant (STP) off Pelican Point Road.

Have we identified the cause of the problem?

Yes. The odour is being caused by an accumulation of sludge in the sewage lagoons. Basically, the lagoons haven't been cleared out properly since they were constructed 30 years ago. One of the lagoons is so full of sludge it is non-operational.

What are we doing to address the problem?

To address the problem in the short-term we have used recyled water to create a water cap over the sludge in the worst-affected lagoon. This is the lagoon that is no longer in operation. The water cap effectively traps the odour underneath the surface.

In the longer term we will be spending more than $1 million removing sludge from three of the lagoons at Smithton. The process will commence in September 2017 and will continue through until March 2018. The work will be undertaken by Conhur Pty Ltd.

What will happen to the sludge?

Most of the sludge will be de-watered and transported off-site for use on local agricultural land. Discussions are currently taking place with a number of landholders in the immediate vicinity of the STP who are interested in accepting the waste product. Residents can be assured that the sludge will be removed, handled and transported in a safe, timely and environmentally responsible manner. Some of the sludge will remain on-site for drying in the sludge drying beds.

How will the work impact on local residents?

There may be a short-term increase in odours as a result of the work - particularly during the first couple of months while sludge is being removed from the worst-affected lagoon. The water cap will remain in place while the sludge is removed to help minimise the risk of odours. Residents will notice an increase in heavy vehicle movements to and from the STP for the duration of the works. Given the distance of the STP from nearby homes, noise is unlikely to be an issue.

Will we be faced with the same problem in a few years' time?

No. By removing the sludge now we will be able to defer any further major capital expenditure on the Smithton STP for at least 15 years while we develop a long-term strategy for the Smithton region.