Healthy land and waterways

Huntly Barton (Greenhill Black Hill Alliance)

110 Boundary Rd

Greenhill 3444


Dear Editor

We met with the EPA scientist on the 24th of April and we appreciate their time and explanation, as to why the license granted to CW on the 4th Dec 2023 has been modified. We are disappointed with this outcome and we are weighing up our options.

The new license does require a greater degree of monitoring on river health. When discharging effluent into the river, water testing must occur weekly, at 7 locations above and below the discharge point. This is for a range of pollution indicators including nutrients. This data will be published monthly on CW web site. Other monitoring is also required including twice yearly toxicity testing on the effluent, all steps in the right direction. Fast tracking live instream monitoring at the 7 sites in the Campaspe River, as promised, will be a way of ensuring correct monitoring. But it will be down to the community to ensure that CW publish this data in a timely manner that the public understand.

This new license is driven by cost not science. In CW’s Price Commission Report 23/28, CW admit if their license application was not successful, they would need to spend another $50m on the KWRP. CW were not successful so took the EPA to VCAT to secure even less rigorous discharge terms. Due to this CW continue to have a license to pollute. This happened in Oct 2022, for 27 days when up to 15 million litres per day of low quality water were released to Snipes Creek. This occurred six months after the completion of CW new storage facility. According to CW Managing Director Mr Damian Wells this would never occur.

The Kyneton Water Reclamation Plant requires an injection of capital to make it compliant in an environment of high population growth and an expanding industrial area. It is also the responsibility of the MRSC to acknowledge their responsibility regarding storm water. Storm water infiltration into the sewage system is a huge problem. Excess sewage cannot be stored so ends up in the trade waste ponds. Put this with an expanding Abattoir that also discharges into the ponds. means they will continue to be breached and the river will be used as a drain.

We need leadership that insures the protection of our river environment. A sewage treatment system is required at the KWRP that produces a quality of water that does not threaten the environment of the Campaspe River. We need this investment now from CW. MRSC also needs to ensure that all storm water connections are compliant. Without this the health of the Campaspe River will continue to decline, resulting in loss of habitat for native species and further restriction on the public access.

The dilution ratio secured by CW, sets an ugly precedent that could be emulated by other authorities around the state. Will new monitoring requirements be enough to stop the decline of the health of the Campaspe River. I personally doubt it.

Huntly Barton

good news story from the midland Express in 2020

Eight platypus – six males and two females – were recorded during a recent trapping survey along the Coliban River at Malmsbury.
All were in good condition and were released back to the wild after being examined by researchers from the Australian Platypus Conservancy, assisted by members of Malmsbury District Landcare Group who funded the study.
Malmsbury Landcare president John Walter noted that platypus were encountered at all five of the sites where nets were set.
The trapping area sampled three kilometres of river channel, from the Malmsbury viaduct to just below Ellis Falls.
The findings were similar to a survey carried out by the APC in the same area in 2001.
This outcome was particularly welcome given concerns by a number of residents that platypus sightings were not as frequent as in the past.
A recent (2019) eDNA survey confirmed the presence of platypus at Malmsbury but could not provide any information about the size or health of the population.
“It’s great to see that the population in our section of the river is still doing well,” Mr Walter said.
“Despite fears that numbers were reduced during the Millennium Drought we now have good reason to believe that the population has bounced back.
“Hopefully the work we have been doing to improve habitat along the river has helped, and the recent regime of environmental releases from Malmsbury Reservoir by Coliban Water has also undoubtedly been a positive for platypus.”
APC biologist Dr Melody Serena said that in addition to the good news about platypus, the recent fieldwork had confirmed that rakali (Australian water-rats) were also thriving along this waterway. This attractive native rodent, which in many ways is the Aussie equivalent of a small otter, was found at four of the five survey sites.
“While it is great to see such positive results, we still need to continue the tremendous work that is already being done by the landcare group and others to improve environmental conditions along the river,” Ms Serena said.
“Getting conditions right for platypus is a big plus for all the other animals that share its aquatic world.”


 The Kyneton sewage system was set up in the early 1930’s. Sewage
gravity fed to a pump station at the bottom of Jeffrey Street next to the
Post Office Creek near the racecourse.
 Sewage was then pumped to KWRP opposite the cemetery, into a pond
system which was the head waters of Snipes Creek. How involved that
system was I do not know. This was run by the Kyneton Water Authority
(KWA), with the assistance of the Kyneton Shire. There is a flood
irrigation system involved but when things went pear-shaped it ended
up in Snipes Creek and into the river. There is a letter from Bev Coutts
describing the effluence heading down the creek, Mrs Connell
interviewed Bev not that long ago.
 In the early 1970’s, the KWA acquired more land. They put in the new
ponds which brought the capacity up to 200Ml and had a total flood
irrigation of 100 acres. At this point Kyneton had a population of around
3000 people and a meatworks called Hutton’s. Not sure of its capacity
but their waste went to the KWRP. Maybe the expansion of the KWRP
was due to the meatworks? What quality the water was, I have no idea.
 Sometime around the late 1970’s, early 1980’s, Coliban Water (CW) took
over the running of the KWRP. I assume that included Castlemaine,
Bendigo etc. down to the Murray? I have no knowledge of how CW
came about or when it happened.
 Since then, Trentham, Tylden and Malmsbury sewage have been
connected to the KWRP, when this exactly occurred I do not know.
 In 2003 a Biological Nutrient Remover (BNR) plant was commissioned at
the KWRP. A BNR plant deals with human waste only and removes
pathogens and at the end of this process there is a UV plant that
removes E Coli. The end result is tertiary treated water, which is
described as B Class water. This water is stored in a dam inside the
Kyneton Racecourse and is used in Kyneton’s gardens, ovals and parks.
This BNR system can cope with 2 to 3Ml a day. It has no storage capacity
and has consequences which will be revealed.

 In 2007, the EPA banned CW from using Snipes Creek as their discharge
point as the creek was heavily polluted. CW now pump water into the
Campaspe River at Wards Lane (just down from where the Calder
Freeway crosses the Campaspe River, north of Kyneton).
 When the river is running it is this water (B Class) they have a license to
dispense into the river. The ratio is 5 river flows to 1 effluent. This is
measured at the BOM site 36kms (as the crow flies) below the discharge
point, near Redesdale.
 The pond system at this point (2007) was now for industrial waste,
which was essentially 2 meatworks and the Saleyards. The water quality
is a C Class (high in Pathogens and E Coli) water that is used for
irrigation. CW does not have a licence to release this quality of water.
 In dry conditions when the river does not run and the use of B Class
water is not required, and the Racecourse dam is full CW’s only means of
getting rid of this water was to put it into the pond system – Turning a
tertiary water into a C Class water. When the ponds get to breaking
point CW can apply to the EPA for an emergency release of water, this is
called a Section 30A? From 2007 to 2019 this occurred 7 times and the
water went down Snipes Creek as the river had no flows.
 In wet conditions as we have experienced recently, we have the problem
of storm water invasion into the sewage system. The main reason for
this is the illegal connection of stormwater from houses. Unfortunately,
this has occurred due to the privatisation of building codes, inspection
by both Shire Officers and CW inspectors have become slack. Graham
can elaborate on this. The old section of Kyneton where clay pipes are in
still in use, also has storm water invasion problems.
 Again when this occurs and the ponds are threatened, CW apply to the
EPA for an emergency release of water which can then be sent down
either Snipes Creek or pumped to Wards Lane. Remember CW do not
have a licence to dispense C Class water.
 In 2016 we lost 15 calves from Leptospirosis and the following year 7 of
those cows never conceived. Because of those losses, our vet was
obliged to notify the Department. A vet was sent out and the herd was
tested – Leptospirosis was identified, she said it was most likely from a
meatworks or an abattoir and you could never prove.

 Forward to February 2019, CW was found guilty of a release of 1m litres
of raw sewage into Post Office Creek in 2016 and was fined $100,000.00.
The penny dropped, I approached my neighbours about what they
thought of the river and the effects on them.
 That is when we approached CW about what was happening and they
furnished us with an incredible amount of raw data that none of us
could get our heads around. We asked around and someone gave us the
name of David Tiller, a retired water science. We sent him the data and
he very kindly interpreted this data for us. CW experts lobbed to our
place (there were 3 or more) very confident they could ‘pull the wool
over our eyes’. The opposite happened, thanks to David.
 CW must have been aware of the problems at the KWRP, as they, the
State Government and Hardwicks Meatworks formed a partnership. A
grant was provided from the State Government (we never found out the
amount) for water storage, irrigation, Solar energy and refrigeration.
This went to Hardwicks. They purchased 240 acres below the KWRP and
built a 230Ml dam and set up 3 centre pivots. CW supplied UV treated
water to this dam because of the pressure applied by the community.
 In April 2019 CW began releasing B Class water into the river at Wards
Lane with little or no river flows. The EPA let them do this. Then in May
2019 they were releasing C Class water shandied down with B Class
water for over forty days. It was this event that caused the EPA to fine
CW for pollution. In March 2021 they were found guilty, fined and put
on a 2 year good behaviour bond.
 CW have since put in another 230Ml storage dam for C Class water and
another 30Ml dam that stores B Class water. They have spent $7.6m on
a pipe to Crofton Park over 13km north of the facility.
 In late 2021 we had a very wet Spring, Hardwicks and CW dams (600ml
plus of storage capacity now) were about to spill. It was at this point we
were told of the invasion of storm water and because of these events
they were tipping 12ml of raw sewage into the pond system every day.
Remember the BNR plant has no storage and can only cope with 2.5Ml
per day. CW had applied for an emergency release into Snipes Creek but
did not use it.

 Around 2021 CW installed a flow meter above the discharge point at
Wards Lane.
 In October 2022 again the ponds were treated and they released down
Snipes Creek but the dilution factor was so great no charges were laid.
 CW submitted a licence variation to the EPA early 2022. This
amendment is yet to be resolved and will be heard at VCAT in May this
year. Remember the EPA granted CW a flow ratio of 3 river water to 1
waste water measured above the discharge point. CW were seeking a
ratio of 2 waste water to 1 river flow. The norm across the state is 5
river water to 1 waste water.

Coliban fiasco

This video shows raw sewage overflowing and making its way to the Campaspe river

Here is a letter to the Midland Express from one of our Board members Huntly Barton. Huntly is also a member of the Greenhill Blackhill Alliance

EPA License to be challenged at VCAT by Coliban Water
Midland Express
After 500 days of negotiation between the EPA and Coliban Waters (CW) the license renewal for the Kyneton Water Reclamation Plant (KWRP) will be challenged at VCAT.

The issue that will be contested is the dilution ratio.
Let me correct the article on the license renewal from last week’s paper. CW were asking for a dilution ratio of two parts effluent to one part river flow not the other way round. The EPA recently issued an amended operating license for the release of only tertiary treated water with a minimum dilution of three parts river flow to one part effluent.
An emergency release of water is when the ponds are at breaking point. CW have to apply to the EPA for an approval under section 30A of the Environment Protection Act.

The wastewater in the ponds is low quality and, it was a release of this water in 2019 that lead to CW being found guilty of pollution and placed on a two year good behaviour bond.

CW love to tell the story of how they have spent $20m on the Kyneton Water Reclaimation Plant (KWRP), but they are aware of its shortfalls. In CW Price Submission 2023/2028 Report they acknowledge that if their license application does not go their way, then considerably more capital expenditure will be required at the
Surely this an admission that it’s spend is inadequate and explains why the Company is so intent on challenging the EPA at VCAT so it can obtain a regulatory framework to pollute. This is totally unacceptable from a societal and environmental perspective.
CW need to accept the new operating license and acknowledge that the KWRP is at capacity. No further development that impacts on the KWRP, can occur until such a time that only low pathogen tertiary treated water (A Class) is released from their facility to the river and that they meet a minimum of three to one dilution.
The new operating license is much better than the last, but we have concerns about the monitoring program and our ability to have access to this data. We have totally lost confidence in CW especially now they are challenging the umpire’s decision at VCAT.
If CW are successful at VCAT it will set an ugly precedent for all other authorities to emulate.
Huntly Barton
Greenhill Blackhill Alliance
110 Boundary Rd