Sydney Water should not go against the flow of industry, agriculture, community groups and other stakeholders taking responsibility for reducing pollution in the Hawkesbury-Nepean by asking for special variation of its planning conditions and pollution licence for the Brooklyn sewage treatment plant, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
The proposal to weaken pollution controls for phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia must be evaluated for its impact on a sensitive river system already under threat from algal blooms and rampant aquatic weed growth, choking aquatic life and hampering the river’s safe recreational and agricultural use.
“The proposed variation of the planning conditions and pollution licence for the Brooklyn sewage treatment plant must be opened up for meaningful public consultation,” Chief Executive Officer Pepe Clarke said today.
“Given the importance and sensitivity of the Hawkesbury River, the proposed changes to the planning conditions should be subject to fresh environmental assessment and public consultation.
“Planning approval for the Brooklyn sewage treatment facility went ahead on the condition that point sources of pollution, including phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia, would be reduced significantly after an 18-month start up period. It’s simply not good enough that Sydney Water can’t or won’t meet its end of the bargain, and now expects carte blanche to continue polluting the Hawkesbury River.
“Decisions about the safety and health of one of Sydney’s most important rivers cannot be compromised by cost cutting at Sydney Water or deals made between the water authority, planners or pollution regulators behind closed doors.
“If the Department of Planning fails to require fresh assessment and consultation for the Brooklyn sewage treatment plant, the Environmental Protection Authority must step in to make sure that the public has a right to be heard.
“Plans for a 10-fold increase in phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia discharge into the Hawkesbury River from the Brooklyn sewage treatment plant again raises serious questions first raised during the Orica toxic incidents about whether community concerns and environmental protection are adequately considered in pollution licence processes and monitoring in NSW,” Mr Clarke said.