Sewage spill closes our only waterway

By CRAIG McTEAR

THERE'S something smelly about Coffs Creek at present ? and unfortunately, it's exactly what you think it is!

The waterway, popular with holiday-makers and locals, has been declared off limits after almost 50,000 litres of untreated sewage poured into it on Wednesday.

For the mathematically less-inclined, that's equivalent of about 320 bath tubs, or seven septic tanks.

Swimming, fishing, the taking of oysters and public recreation generally have been banned for at least the next seven days ? which will see out the remainder of the school holidays ? until testing of water samples gives it the all-clear.

People are also warned to stay away from the shoreline.

"The level of contamination is not great, but it's above recommended levels," Coffs Harbour City Council's acting general manager, Steve Sawtell, said.

A power cut at the council's Brodie Drive sewerage pump station ? caused by a truck reversing into a nearby electricity distribution box ? led to a backing-up of sewer flows.

There were also power cuts to other parts of the city, including the Pacific Highway.

Mr Sawtell said the sewage back-up resulted in an overflow into an adjoining stormwater drain and into Coffs Creek.

Council staff estimate 48,000 litres of sewage escaped into the creek just upstream of the Coffs Creek Bridge at Orlando Street on the outgoing tide.

"Council's emergency response procedure was immediately activated and Cleanaway pump-out trucks were called out, and pumped the well and the stormwater drain clear," Mr Sawtell said.

"Portable back-up generators were used to power the pump station and continue operation while Country Energy repaired the damaged underground/overhead conductor feeding the pump station.

"The stormwater drain was then fully flushed."

Mr Sawtell said the council's environmental health officers would monitor water quality daily, while officials from the Department of Health and NSW Fisheries were also involved.

The council has placed warning signs along the creek.

"This situation has happened a number of times before over the years. Pump stations do break down," Mr Sawtell said.

"That's why we've got management plans in place like this."



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