Point Moore Residential Onsite Effluent Treatment and Disposal Study
On 22 April 2014, Council resolved to undertake an environmental and health assessment of the residential waste water disposal systems of the Point Moore area to get a better understanding of performance of the existing onsite waste water systems, the impacts they are having on public health, the local environment and the degree to which they comply with current legislation and guidelines.
The City has received a report titled Point Moore Residential Onsite Effluent Treatment and Disposal Study from specialist independent consultants GHD.
The City has made the consultant's report public to inform the Point Moore stakeholders and the broader community and to seek public feedback.
The report (without appendices) can be downloaded by clicking on the following link Point Moore ROETD Study
The appendices (170 pages long) can be downloaded by clicking on the following link Point Moore ROETD Study Appendices (19MB)
Frequently Asked Questions
Were the septic systems built to the standards applicable in the 1960s and 1970s?
The City doesn’t know if they were built to meet the applicable standards of the time. However, these standards have since changed and these systems no longer meet the current compliance standards.
If the septic systems are not compliant how come residents have been allowed to renovate or build new dwellings?
These works may have been completed without approval from the City’s Environmental Health Department or the septic tanks and leach drains/soak wells were not changed in the renovation process.
In regard to the contamination, when did it occur and where?
The groundwater was sampled on three different occasions over a three-month period at four different bore locations in the Point Moore area. Please see table below for locations. The first round of sampling from the bores completed in August found that three (MW1, MW2, MW3) of the four groundwater samples from the bores had Faecal coliforms and E.coli results that exceeded the ANZECC (2000) guidelines for primary contact recreation.
Although there is spiking of E. coli in certain seasons from Point Moore dwellings, is there some other source that could also be contributing to these results?
The reason for the seasonal spikes of E. coli at Pages beach during the Recreational Waters Bacterial Monitoring Program the City conducts is unknown due to the many factors making up water quality.
Has the caravan park/retirement village also been tested and found to be affected?
The three extra bores that were installed for the study were strategically located to ensure all of the ground water within Point Moore was included in the sampling which took the caravan park into consideration even though the caravan park does not have a typical septic tank and leach drain system that disperses the waste water into the ground.
Could the fish farm be contributing to the spike?
No. Fish also do not have E. coli or Enterococci in their gut but do carry around these bacteria if the food they eat is contaminated.
What is the difference between Point Moore groundwater going into the ocean and horses being allowed to poop daily all over Pages Beach?
Horse guts do not contain significant levels of the bacteria E. coli to be a risk to human health unlike human guts where significant levels of E. coli are found.
How is the leaching effect of Point Moore septics different to those of other septics such as Beachlands?
The majority of Beachlands is on deep sewer but those areas that have onsite residential waste water systems have much larger blocks and the area has a higher topography than Pont Moore.
How often is the water tested at beaches?
The City undertakes the Department of Health Recreational Waters Bacterial Sampling Program once a month over a six-month period from October to March at 11 locations across Geraldton.
Pages Beach was closed earlier this year, why were we not told the reason for the beach being closed?
Pages Beach was closed on 9 February 2016 due results from the Recreational Waters Bacterial Sampling Program finding large numbers of E. coli which is an indicator of faecal contamination due to the high concentration found within human faeces. This level exceeded the NHMRC Guideline for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters 2006. The reason for this is still unknown as there are many contributing factors such as tides and weather that can impact on water quality.
The community was advised of the closure on 10 February 2016 via a Community Service Announcement sent to all media outlets and a Public Notice published on the City’s website homepage Public Notices Section on 10 February 2016. A Facebook post was also issued.
Does Pages Beach get tested for E. coli?
Yes, Pages Beach does get tested for E. coli through the City undertaking the Recreational Waters Bacterial Sampling Program.
How feasible is the estimated infrastructure cost for deep sewage?
The preliminary estimate for deep sewage is $6-$10 million. More studies would be required to verify feasibility and cost estimates.
Can a breakdown of the estimated infrastructure costs be provided?
As the $6-$10 million is only a rough cost estimate and more studies are required to verify the feasibility it is not possible to provide a breakdown of the estimated costs.
How much would a vacuum system cost?
The City would need to engage with the Water Corporation to ascertain if this system is a viable option and its design and development costs.
With the ‘reticulated’ sewage system estimated between $35,000 to $55,000 per property, why would lease holders/owners consider paying this without a guaranteed lease extension?
It would be unrealistic to expect leaseholders to fund the costs associated with any compliant wastewater disposal system without a guarantee from Council that leases would be extended.
Shouldn’t the costs associated with deep sewage be paid for by the City or Landcorp as the land is leased?
The costs associated with wastewater disposal are always the responsibility of the home owner. In the case of Point Moore this would be the leaseholder.
With knowledge from 2006 regarding upgrades, why hasn’t the City undertaken these upgrades with the rates we pay we pay plus normal rates?
Local Government is not responsible for residential wastewater treatment; it is the responsibility of the home owner.
Can the State Government assist with the renewal of the sewage system?
All available information is being provided to the State Government for their consideration as ultimately the land is owned by the State. Should a solution to the waste water treatment be found and supported by the Council the City will seek support from the State to fund the solution.
Given the negative assessment of the septic systems will there be a discussion on leases to allow people time to make financial decisions?
Yes. The City will provide all new information to the leaseholders as it becomes available to enable leaseholders to provide their feedback and make decisions.
Are there options for individual closed or sealed systems that could be pumped out?
All options that meet with State guidelines will be considered however, this would not be a suitable option for individual lots as it would have a major impact on social amenity and would require a large degree of engineering to work efficiently. The major concern with these types of systems is the odour they create when breaking down waste and during the pumping out stage. It is worth noting that pumping out closed systems is very expensive as the system would need to capture all waste water (showers, sinks, wash machines, toilets, etc…)
Are leaseholders going to be charged more to have adequate sewer removal?
The costs and their recovery associated with any solution are yet to be determined. However, residents can expect cost recovery to be passed onto the leaseholders/property owners by the State Government utility provider.
What system is used at the caravan park to treat their waste water?
The Caravan Park has a system that is approved by Department of Health which complies with all relevant legislation. The Caravan Park does not have a traditional septic tank and leach drain waste water system.
Is it possible to use the same system the caravan park/retirement village uses for the rest of Point Moore?
The Caravan Park system would not be suitable for a large residential area. This system also involves ongoing maintenance costs.
Why aren’t other stakeholders attending this meeting?
Attendance at community meetings is up to the individual.
With the estimated sea level rise of 0.9m won’t the sewage system used by the caravan park/retirement village then be beneath the water table?
The caravan park does not have a typical septic tank/leach drain system. Its treatment occurs above ground before being dispersed.
Acknowledging the estimated 0.9 sea level rise by 2110, is there still scope for residential leases to be extended to 2040 to match the caravan park/retirement village lease?
Whether or not there is scope for residential leases to be extended to 2040 based on estimated sea level rise will be a matter for Council to decide.
Why did the caravan park/retirement village have their lease extended to 2040?
The lessees of the caravan park applied to the City to surrender their lease and have it approved by Council to renew and extend out for the maximum term of the Crown Management Order to provide long term financial security to their investment in the redevelopment and park improvements. Council approved this new lease at its meeting in 2007. The lease is due to expire on 10 March 2045.
Leaseholders pay $3500 in lease fees per year on top of rates. What do we get for that?
Rates collected by the City are used to provide programs and services to the entire community. Some of these services include the Geraldton Regional Library, QEII Centre, QPT, and Aquarena. These funds are also used to maintain and renew existing infrastructure such as roads, drainage, footpaths, City owned buildings, public open spaces, etc… Rates also fund Capital Works projects. Some recently completed Capital Works projects include the Mullewa Transfer Station, Abraham Street Roundabout and the RV Dumping Station.
Can the $3500/year lease fees be put specifically towards septic upgrades?
This would be a matter for Council to decide.
What do we do now in reference to our waste water systems?
The ROETD report states that current systems installed at properties within Point Moore do not and cannot comply with the legislation. The City will be guided by the advice from State Government agencies such as Department of Health and Department of Environment Regulation on where to go from here with the non-compliant systems.
Who is legally responsible for maintaining the septic systems if they are non-compliant?
The property owner/leaseholder.
Why were only 17 properties inspected out of the total 176 leases and how were they selected?
The 17 properties were randomly selected with an even spread across the Point Moore area. The number was restricted by time, finances and accessing properties that would incur the least amount of disturbance. The 17 properties provide a valid representation of the population (10%) in order to draw conclusions from in the study as none of the 17 properties complied and could not comply.
Can the small sample of only 17 septic systems give a fair indication of any problems?
Yes. A 10% sample size is adequate.
What are the locations of the 17 dwellings that were surveyed?
The City is not able to give the locations of the surveyed septic systems due to Privacy legislation. The owners and residents of the properties were notified of the surveys taking place.
Shouldn’t all of Beachands and even the whole of Geraldton (i.e. Nazareth House it is older yet) have their septic systems inspected for compliance?
The majority of Beachlands is on deep sewer but those areas that have onsite residential waste water systems have much larger blocks and the area has a higher topography than Pont Moore. The City does inspect all newly constructed septic tanks to ensure compliance and respond via a compliance inspection to any complaints regarding failing septic systems. Nazareth house has been connected to deep sewer since 1995.
If the problem with septics has been known for a couple of years why were the sale of homes allowed?
The problem with the wastewater treatment systems and the potential health risk from coming in direct and indirect contact with contaminated ground water due to non-compliant wastewater disposal systems has only been known since late November 2016.
Why wasn’t I told by Council there are problems when we bought a cottage in 2016?
All purchasers of Point Moore leasehold properties are required to sign a Declaration by Purchaser that states they are aware that the cottage is on leased land and there is no guarantee for the renewal of the lease when it expires. As with any real estate transaction it is the buyer’s responsibility to conduct due diligence prior to purchasing. Interested purchasers of lease hold properties at Point Moore who contact the City, are given a full and honest disclosure of the current situation in the area for their consideration.
Why is Point Moore at risk from Tsunami when the Boxing Day Tsunami only inundated the CBD area?
During the Boxing Day Tsunami, Marine Terrace provided a barrier to Pt Moore and prevented flooding. However, the Point Moore Inundation & Coastal processes Study indicates that cyclonic and non-cyclonic events will produce higher inundation levels than a tsunami. Storms and cyclones are associated with low-pressure systems which cause base water levels to be higher for example, for each 1Kpa drop in pressure water levels increase by 1cm. Therefore, a tropical low can increase water levels by 10-15cm. The Boxing Day tsunami was not associated with a low pressure system.
Why does the website say Point Moore waste water is impacting public health and the environment?
The website reflects the findings of the ROETD Study which states failing leach drains in the area are responsible for ground water contamination in Point Moore and does pose a potential health risk for those coming in direct and indirect contact with ground water.
What are the solutions and will Council work towards them?
The City is currently liaising with key State Government agencies to identify all possible solutions to issues around the non-compliant waste water treatment systems and the effects they are having in the area. Once these solutions are identified and the potential implementation costs are known, the City will work together with the residents to find a solution to present to recommend to Council.
Will the Council guarantee a renewal of the leases if we find a way to resolve the septic problem?
Council will need to take into consideration the results of both studies (ROETD and the Point Moore Inundation & Coastal Processes Study) and their possible solutions when making their decision on further lease extensions.
What will happen if a solution can’t be found?
This will be a matter for Council to decide.
What feedback will be provided post public comment period on the ROETD Study?
The City will provide regular updates to the Friends of Point Moore Inc. (FOPM) community group on information received from State Government agencies and the feedback received during the public consultation period. The FOPM have also agreed to keep Point Moore residents informed of all new information and developments throughout the process. The City will also meet with Point Moore residents to discuss possible solutions and the recommendations to be made to Council.
How can the Friends of Point Moore be the primary contact with the community as they represent less than 25% of residents? Can all new information/correspondence be sent directly to residents?
The Friends of Point Moore (FOPM) requested they be the primary contact for the City in matters relating to lease extensions and the City is honouring this request and will give them the resources required to do so. The FOPM have agreed to keep all lease holders and property owners in Point Moore informed throughout this process. As advice and/or feedback is received from key State Government agencies this will be posted on the website. Once all advice and feedback is received, the City will hold a community meeting to share the information and discuss the way forward.
Why is $23 million being spent on the Beresford Foreshore rather than being used to assist an area that is more at risk with erosion and inundation?
The State Government is providing almost $22 million to build coastal defence works along the Beresford Foreshore to protect the estimated $55 million worth of State and Council owned infrastructure such as water, electric, gas, sewage telephone (NBN), and roads. The City is investing $1.85 million in the project.
Why has the vegetated dune material been removed from Pages Beach?
Pages Beach is accreting and there has been an increase in both the volume of sand and the areas of vegetation at this location. Sand is being bypassed to the Beresford Foreshore from this location but vegetation is not affected.