The discharge of treated wastewater into the Murray River has been halted pending an Environmental Protection Agency Victoria investigation into whether licensing conditions have been exceeded.By Randall Johnston
The discharge of treated wastewater into the Murray River has been halted pending an Environmental Protection Agency Victoria investigation into whether licensing conditions have been exceeded.
Cobram’s Murray Goulburn plant had consent to pump treated wastewater directly into the Murray River at Dead Bend Track from August 30 until December 28.
But EPA Victoria has ordered the plant cut the water release and is investigating a potential breach of the conditions under which the permission was granted.
Murray Goulburn normally applies this discharge to paddocks for irrigation purposes.
EPA Victoria media spokeswoman Lauren Wall said there were stringent monitoring requirements on any discharge approval, and they were not issued lightly.
‘‘The investigation we are doing will determine the level of compliance and impact on the environment,’’ Ms Wall said.
‘‘In terms of how we will enforce, we have a compliance and enforcement policy which articulates EPA’s approach, method and priorities for ensuring compliance with our Act.
‘‘EPA was satisfied that higher than usual rainfalls created a significant situation that required permission for emergency discharge in August 2012.’’
EPA Victoria requires Murray Goulburn to monitor and sample waterways and report back.
‘‘Companies with EPA monitoring requirements are required to use an independent, National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory to take and test the samples,’’ Ms Wall said.
‘‘If the results provided by a business are found to be outside the parameters specified by a site licence or regulation, EPA will undertake its own sampling and testing and investigate further.’’
They must conduct daily visual inspections of the discharge and the receiving waters below and above the discharge point.
Murray Goulburn spokeswoman Kim Lovely said the wastewater was treated through various processes at the plant, including in large treatment lagoons and then used for agricultural irrigation.
But Ms Lovely said flooding this year had put pressure on the system.
‘‘We have ceased the authorised discharge while we work with the EPA to assist with their investigation and address community concerns,’’ she said.
Murray Goulburn is working with EPA to address this issue.
‘‘Murray Goulburn takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and if the current authorised discharges are of concern to the community or EPA, we will naturally review what we are doing and seek to do it in a way that addresses (these) concerns,’’ Ms Lovely said.
Cobram resident Peter Jovic said he was disgusted when he found the wastewater release last week.
‘‘I can’t believe they got consent to do it in the first place — under any conditions,’’ Mr Jovic said.
‘‘People swim and fish in there all the time.
‘‘I just can’t see why we would treat our waterways that are crucial to tourism and recreation with such disrespect — it’s just disgusting.’’
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