Wastewater being released into Cockburn Sound has increased five-fold in three days and is nothing short of an “environmental disaster”, according to WA Shadow Water Minister Fran Logan.
The Opposition has demanded to know the environmental impact of the Water Corporation’s release of 11 million litres of treated wastewater 1.6km off Woodman Point instead of at the Plant’s Point Peron outlet, which is 4km offshore, due to a broken valve.
Mr Logan said today the Water Corporation was treating the popular recreational area like a backyard dump and “must be held to account”.
He accused WA Environment Minister Bill Marmion of being “missing in action in dealing with a crisis that falls under both his Water and Environment portfolios, leaving it up to the Health Department to advise residents, boaties and fishermen about the worst sewage spill in the history of this treatment plant”.
Mr Logan said Cockburn Sound was one of WA’s key fish spawning and breeding grounds for snapper, crab and other species.
But Mr Marmion said Mr Logan was being "mischievous” and “opportunistic” on the issue and said there were no risks to health or marine life, but he would not answer repeated questions on whether he would eat fish caught in the area.
“Mr Logan has been scaremongering on this issue, its highly treated wastewater nearly to the level of pure water,” he said.
The Health Department on Monday issued a warning against eating raw fish near the outlet.
Monitoring at the Point Perron site, where 110 million litres of treated wastewater was released per day, recorded no changes in the numbers and types of animals living in the sand and rocky reefs due to the ocean outfall have been detected by monitoring."
Water Corporation wastewater manager Mark Herbert said the wastewater, mainly from household laundries, kitchens and bathrooms, was the same quality as what was used to water ovals such as McGillivray in Mt Claremont.
“These short-term releases will have no impact on the quality of the Cockburn Sound, ecology and adjacent areas of Woodman Point.”
He said the dilution effect was the “equivalent of pouring a 350ml can of soft drink into a backyard swimming pool.”
“The outlet pipe is designed for this purpose and the Corporation is operating well within its licence conditions. If the outlet pipe was not used then untreated wastewater would back up in the system and consequently overflow within Perth’s streets and houses.”
Cockburn mayor Logan Howlett said it was unfortunate the wastewater had been released into a popular recreational area.
“I am hoping the Water Corporation gets its act together; they need a better preventative management program in place,” he said.