Why is raw effluent still flowing into the waters off Sydney's eastern suburbs?

Mike Duffy

There was further stalling from the NSW Government on Tuesday over raw effluent flowing into the harbour from Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

It is a problem that successive governments have not fixed in 20 years and that the current government has promised to clean up but can’t say when or how.

When pictures documenting the issue first emerged, showing millions of litres of raw effluent, gushing into the marine environment, it shocked Sydney.

Vaucluse is one of the suburbs being affected as effluent pours into the harbour. Photo: 7 News

It also showed the untreated waste was not going right out to sea, but on the doorstep of Vaucluse.

Following a 7 News investigation, the founder of Clean Up Australia, Ian Kiernan, demanded government action to protect the marine environment.

"It's an absolute disgrace," he said.

The untreated contents of toilets is being dumped on the doorstep of Sydney's eastern suburbs. Photo: 7 News

"They're pumping sewage into it, turning it into a cesspit. They are the enemy."

For at least 20 years, authorities have promised to process and reroute the waste.

The former Water Minister, Phil Costa, said in February 2010, "We understand there's a problem there and we're dealing with it."

In 2011, Sydney Water said it was “working on this project now”.

Effluent water dumped on reserves

There have been many promises over the years but no action.

The real problem is, the residents of Vaucluse don't want drilling under their homes and under their backyards, and when they speak, those in power tend to listen.

On Tuesday, Water Minister Niall Blair refused to commit to a timeframe.

"Sydney Water needs to work with the local community to come up with a solution that will balance the environmental benefits as well as making sure there is not going to be too many disruptions as we go through with the solution,” he said.

Water Minister Niall Blair says Sydney Water needs to 'work with the community' to find a solution. Photo: 7 News

When 7 News asked Mr Blair if that meant, given that there is no way of rerouting the waste without disruptions, that it never happens, he responded, “This is about working with the community".

Mr Kiernan had a reminder for the authorities that the public will be watching.

“We've got the vote, that's the biggest power we've got," he said.