Coramba resident Karen Spring uses a dipstick to find how much sewage is in her pump-out tank, watched by her son Dale Johnston
Coramba resident Karen Spring uses a dipstick to find how much sewage is in her pump-out tank, watched by her son Dale Johnston

Coramba under the pump


RAIN like we've seen this month doesn't mean a lush garden to Josh and Karen Burrows. It means constant anxiety about backed-up drains and huge pump-out bills for the Coramba family.

Do you enjoy lying on your lawn watching the clouds make a great sunset? Jan Davidson won't let anyone lie on her Thrower Avenue lawn in case they get an infection from raw sewage.

Most people use their toilet without a second thought. Karen Spring rations her family's flushes and still paid $198 in pump-out charges from December 6 for three people.

It may be 2006, but residents in low-lying parts of Coramba say they are coping with third world sewerage while paying ritzy first world bills for it.

Karen Spring said the few (66) battling residents who will be left on pump-out when the Northern Beaches sewerage scheme is completed next month were being asked to shoulder the cost of the council pump-out contractor's shrinking customer base.

The rain that has poured down on the Coffs Coast in recent weeks has exacerbated the problems, with the Burrows among those who had their holding tank pumped out on Friday and then again last Monday, following a weekend of heavy rain, at a cost of $72 at the new $13.50 per kilolitre price, imposed in November with no consultatiuon with residents.

"Everyone's tank is full, even if they haven't even used it," said Penny Dennis.

The sewage pump-out bills which have begun arriving in residents' mailboxes are confirming their worst fears. Mrs Dennis has calculated they will be paying $2444.50 a year in sewage fees and charges ? five times what other city residents are paying and an impossible cost for many on pensions or low incomes.

After meeting last month and forming Coramba Residents Against Pump-Out (CRAPO), the group has now sent a six-page submission to Coffs Harbour City Council accusing the council of failing to consult them and asking to be allowed to pay exactly the same amount as sewered households until the council can find a permanent solution to their problems.

They say ageing pump-out tanks fill with rainwater and overflow on to back and front yards in spite of residents' efforts to dig drains; the same tanks host mosquitoes and cockroaches in plague proportions and the history of their subdivision is littered with broken promises.

Yesterday Coffs Harbour's deputy mayor, Cr Ian Hogbin, said he had not been aware of the problem until recently and did not know its history but agreed Coffs Harbour City Council now had to solve the problem.

He said he had 'no argument' with the case that it was the extension of Northern Beaches sewerage which had made pump-out collection uneconomic.

"From a personal viewpoint, council has to resolve the issue (of cost) because we have created the issue, not them.

"I'd be happy to look at sharing the costs. My understanding is all users effectively meet the cost of sewerage in other areas so there is already a precedent.

"As a council we need to ensure one group of people are not disadvantaged by services delivered to other people."

The mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said he was willing to look at any matters that came before council.

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