STORY DENISE DION
The expertise to find an environmentally sound solution to the dilemma of Merimbula’s sewage treatment plant could be sitting right here in the shire and barely 10km away from the treatment plant so badly in need of upgrading. Not only could it be an environmentally sound solution but could prove to be cheaper than the options so far proposed.
At the meeting in July council discussed the matter which at that time appeared to boil down to a choice between $23 million for a deep water ocean outfall or increased re-use for irrigation coupled with shallow dunal exfiltration. While the deep water ocean outfall pipe is the most expensive to install, costing approximately three times as much as shallow dunal exfiltration, it would be about 10 times less expensive to operate.
Both systems come with inherent problems particularly the dunal exfiltration system which raised concerns by some councillors for the welfare of the lakes which are home to the oyster industry.
But at Pambula Engineering, Pambula, chairman Joe Ruiz-Avila believes that the company’s Kix dehydration machines could hold the key to a cheaper solution which comes with good environmental credentials.
The dehydrators, which Mr Ruiz-Avila invented, are in demand all over the world. In the fish farming industry they have been used to turn shrimp waste into fish food.
But they could also be used to turn effluent into pellets which could then be sold as fertilizer.
Mr Ruiz-Avila said: “We have been talking to both Melbourne Water and Sydney Water about this development. We have had a prototype in at Concepcion in Chile for the last three years. There they have been drying the effluent, producing pellets and burning them for fuel.”
The company is currently preparing a proposal for Melbourne Water.
“Currently Sydney Water transports wet sludge which is taken to Bathurst and dumped in a field. The field can’t be used for anything, you can’t grow anything there for a couple of years and the truck goes back dirty having only been used one way.”
He said: “We could do a trial. I know we could dry, sterlise and deodorise. It could then be sold as fertilizer. It costs about $60 a tonne to process and it may be possible to recoup that cost if buyers can be found making the process cost neutral.”
Mr Ruiz-Avila who contacted the News Weekly after seeing a letter in the newspaper about the sewerage system, said: “It would be worthwhile for us to have a talk and see whether we can play a role. Let’s do a study.”