Bonville Creek chlorine spill

Big spill: Fire fighters with hazardous materials gear battle the chemical spill at Sawtell.
Big spill: Fire fighters with hazardous materials gear battle the chemical spill at Sawtell. Leigh Jensen

SAWTELL’S Middle Creek has been declared unsafe for swimming and fishing following a major chemical spill.

Sawtell residents yesterday awoke to a nasty chlorine smell after as much as 7500 litres of sodium hypochlorite, otherwise known as liquid chlorine, spewed from the Sawtell sewage treatment works.

Sawtell Fire Station commander Cr Keith Rhoades said it was not known at this stage how much had spilled into nearby waterways but the situation was being monitored.

Middle Creek, which is also known as Chinamans Creek and flows into Bonville Creek, is predominantly affected.

Sodium hypochlorite is used to disinfect reclaimed water produced by the plant.

A council spokeswoman said the release was believed to be caused by mechanical failures but the incident had not affected the plant’s operation.

“The results of water samples taken by council staff are showing very low levels of chlorine in the creek, levels which are in fact permissible in tap drinking water,” the spokeswoman said.

Fire crews were called to the plant off Newcastle Drive about 1am when alarms notified city council staff of the spillage.

“It spilled into a stormwater channel in the facility because the amount of the spillage was greater than the bund to contain it,” Cr Rhoades said.

“Monitoring has been set up at the plant, at the perimeter, at the end of 16th Avenue, at the bridge at the bowling club and at the end of Boronia Street.

“Tests are taken every 30 to 45 minutes and one of the things in our favour was we had 31mm of rain from early this morning – the more rain the better because it dilutes the chemical quicker.”

Evacuation of residents was initially considered but was deemed unnecessary, he said.

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