Council’s Wastewater Fitter, Mark is passionate about his job and keeping wet wipes out of our sewer system.
How long have you been working at Council? Five and a half years.
What does a typical day for you involve? Pumpstation maintenance, upgrading pumps, cleaning our wet wells, installing new pumps – mixed with break downs and a lot of problem solving!
What is a pumpstation? It’s basically a collection point that pumps our community’s wastewater to our treatment plants.
Why can’t wipes be flushed down the toilet? There’s so many different wipes available these days - baby wipes, wet wipes, makeup wipes and cleaning wipes but none of them should be flushed because they never break down. Even if they say ‘flushable’!
What happens when someone flushes a wipe? It’s likely to cause a blockage at one of three places:
- Within the property’s own plumbing
- Within our sewer main
- At one of Council's 124 pumpstations.
Wipes are our biggest culprit when it comes to blocked pumpstations. The material used to make these wipes is actually quite strong so when hundreds meet in a pumpstation they become one very tough mass that even wears away at the steel within our pumps!
How often does this happen? Since starting with Council five years ago I’ve noticed an increase in wipes and the problems they cause. On average, we are fixing about three wet wipe blockages a week and these often happen overnight. At the end of the day, these staffing and material costs are worn by the ratepayer.
What can people put down the toilet? Our sewer system runs like a dream if we all remember the three Ps – pee, poo and paper down the toilet.
After a night of heavy rainfall in the Rocky Creek Dam catchment, the dam level is at full supply with more than 300mm flowing over the spillway on Thursday morning. This means water restrictions have been lifted across Ballina Shire.
This is a welcome sight after a prolonged period of unseasonal dry conditions with the dam last spilling in October 2018. Rainfall readings for Rocky Creek Dam show that in the first 6 weeks of 2020, we have had the same amount of rainfall recorded in 2019.
“Although there has been a considerable amount of rainfall over the region in the last few weeks, not all of it has fallen over the Rocky Creek Dam catchment,” said Andrew Logan, Planning Manager at Rous County Council. “However, with the overnight heavy rain, the dam has now reached capacity and the decision has been made to lift all water restrictions.”
This applies to the council areas of Ballina, Byron (excluding Mullumbimby), Lismore (excluding Nimbin), and Richmond Valley (excluding Casino). Lismore City, Byron Shire and Richmond Valley Councils will continue to manage water restrictions for Nimbin, Mullumbimby and Casino independently.
“We had a good response from the community during the water restrictions period,” said Rous County Council General Manager, Phillip Rudd.
“It’s been a tough few months going from an intense dry period to widespread rainfall, with water restrictions still needing to be kept in place. Generally, people have understood our role to ensure that we aren’t reacting too quickly to remove restrictions until we had that certainty of supply.”
“Now that the Rocky Creek Dam level is more than 100%, it certainly takes the pressure off.”
Regardless of water restrictions being lifted, Rous County Council will continue to keep the community’s focus on reducing water consumption in our homes and gardens, so that in the event of another extended dry spell, we can be in a better position..
For dam levels or more information visit rous.nsw.gov.au
It's our favourite week of the year - National Water Week!
Why is it our favourite week? Because we get to talk water all week long.
With temperatures rising and little rain in sight the importance of water to every aspect of our world is more evident than ever.
National Water Week (from 21 to 27 October) is an annual opportunity to highlight this precious resource and the role we all play to help protect it.
This year the Australian Water Association is taking a global approach and encouraging the next generation to turn off the tap. This big picture focus has been inspired by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which identifies 17 sustainable goals for young people to unite and take action to meet by 2030. These goals include creating sustainable communities and delivering quality water for all. And we are joining the National Water Week conversation and leading by example.
“It’s easy to think our actions are just a drop in the ocean, but to make a difference globally we need to start local. Whether this means installing a rainwater tank or teaching your kids to turn off the tap when they clean their teeth,” said Ms Belinda Fayle, Council’s Acting Manager Water and Wastewater.
Council also understand the role they play as a local water utility and is using today’s technology to improve tomorrow’s water network.
“Our Water and Wastewater Section are always looking to best practice and new technologies to improve our water quality and network. Over the last few years, we’ve introduced smart water metering, increased our recycled water service, improved our infrastructure and used detailed data to identify water loss,” said Belinda.
“Last summer was long, hot and dry. These conditions caused record recycled water usage and proved the importance of the drought-proof water source. Each litre of recycled water used by our residents, saves a litre of precious drinking water,” explained Belinda.
Smart metering is another way council is saving precious water. “Our smart water metering service was introduced to help manage water loss and save our customers from nasty leaks. The service involves installing a small electronic device onto a customer’s water meter. This device provides hourly water consumption data, which identifies usage spikes which could mean the property has a concealed water leak.”
We supply 10.5 million litres of water each day through 330km of water mains.
Community Wastewater Treatment Plant Tour
To find out more about the water cycle, Council is inviting the community to attend a tour of their Ballina Wastewater Treatment Plant. This plant operates 365 days a year to treat our community’s 10.9 million litres of wastewater.
For more information about National Water Week or to download the colouring-in sheet visit nationalwaterweek.com.au
Our bulk water supplier, Rous County Counil is asking the community to conserve their water over next 48 hours.
Rous County Council is asking the community to be especially mindful of their water use considering bushfires in the region and worsening weather conditions forecast for Tuesday 12 November 2019.
To support firefighting and essential services, Council urges people at home to conserve water as much as possible for the next 48 hours.
Rous County Council General Manager Phillip Rudd said: “Considering the current bushfire situation at Mount Nardi National Park and the worsening weather conditions that are forecast tomorrow, we’re asking the community to please use water conservatively for the next 48 hours. Reducing water demand in the system will help support firefighting and other essential services.”
Rous County Council will continue to monitor the situation and will keep the community updated with any new information with regards to water supply.
Rocky Creek Dam park remains closed to the public until further notice. For more information or to view the current Rocky Creek Dam level visit rous.nsw.gov.au
Who is Rous County Council?
Rous County Council (RCC) is a multipurpose county council delivering bulk water, weed biosecurity and flood mitigation services to the Northern Rivers of NSW. RCC’s constituent councils are Lismore, Ballina, Byron and Richmond Valley:
• Bulk water: The regional water supply authority. It provides water in bulk from its principal supply sources at Rocky Creek Dam and Emigrant Creek Dam servicing around 100,000 people.
• Weed biosecurity: The local control authority for weed biosecurity. Operations cover an area of more than a million hectares including Kyogle and Tweed shires, which are serviced by agreement with those councils.
• Flood mitigation: The flood mitigation authority across the local government areas of Ballina, Lismore and Richmond Valley.
RCC also operates Richmond Water Laboratories in Lismore, providing professional sampling and analytical testing services for water and soil to NSW councils, private industry and the public. The laboratory is National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited.
Our Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators at Alstonville have been hard at work unclogging thousands of wipes and other foreign objects from our wastewater processing equipment. But this wastewater hasn’t arrived via our wastewater network it’s been delivered from our shire’s septic tanks.
If you live on one of our shire's beautiful properties, you would know how important it is to have a well-maintained septic tank. These onsite sewerage management systems do a great job of treating your wastewater on site but they’re not bullet proof. Residents and their visitors must follow the same rules as their urban neighbours – only put the three Ps down the toilet, pee, poo and paper. And when it comes to your kitchen sink remember fat is not your friend.
If you don’t follow these important rules you could clog your property’s pipes, damage your septic tank or cause real damage to our wastewater treatment plant equipment.
When a septic tank is pumped out by a licenced contractor within Ballina Shire it is taken to the Alstonville Waste Water Treatment Plant.
To keep our treatment plant and your septic tank happy follow these simple rules:
- Don’t let foreign materials (such as nappies, wet wipes or hygiene products) to enter your system
- Don’t put fats and oils down the drain
- Don’t allow vegetation to enter the septic tank
Want more information about caring for your onsite sewerage management system? Contact council’s Environmental Health Officers on 1300 864 444 or visit ballina.nsw.gov.au (search OSSM).