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Thursday, 11.15.2018
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4:10 PM
The Stink over Sewerage

As most will know, the State Government wants to build a sewerage treatment plant in the city of Manningham.

However there is something very odd about all this.

Please allow me explain.

First let's list a few facts that many may already know.


Fact 1.

The water we discharge from the sewerage treatment plant in Werribee is clean enough to drink.

How do I know this? The Werribee Sewerage Treatment plant actually runs (or used to run) tours! It was plumbers and other tradespeople who usually attended these tours. 

One of my friends is a plumber who attended this tour some years back. Apparently they were taken on a tour of the plant. However it was at the very end of the tour that was the most telling.

At the point where the treated sewerage was about to be discharged back into the bay, the tour guide stopped, took a glass and dipped it into the treated effluent. Then he drank it! This is what my friend told me.

The point to note here is that at Werribee we treat the sewerage of around half of Melbourne to a point where it can be safely consumed. While most people would be horrified at the thought of drinking it, they would most likely agree that it is at perfectly suitable for gardens, flushing toilets, etc.


Fact 2.

We currently have in place a sewerage system where all the waste of Melbourne is piped and pumped to two places: the eastern and western treatment plants. Just as the treatment plant at Werribee can discharge water clean enough to drink, I am told that the eastern treatment plant can do the same.

What is important to note is that all this infrastructure is currently in place, paid for and operating. There may be a need to upgrade and/or maintain pumps, pipes, etc. but still we have an extensive collection system in place that takes all our waste to these two points for treatment.


Fact 3.

You would think that the most cost effective way to process Melbourne's sewerage would be at large treatment plants. This is because you would get the best economies of scale.

If you were to break up the treatment of sewerage into smaller plants, the costs would increase because you would need to duplicate functions. For instance, you would need to have maintenance departments at each site, an administrative office at each site, canteen services at each site and so on. Also you would need to run an industrial electricity supply line to each site.

All this adds to the start up and running costs and makes the total operation less cost effective.


What is missing?

If the state government wants us to use recycled water, then what do we still need to build to get the recycled water back to residential houses in the suburbs so it can be used?

From what I can see there are two things:

a) We need a network of large pipes to take the recycled water from the sewerage treatment plants back into the suburbs.

b) We need an extensive pipe network that takes the recycled water from the large return pipes pipes and distributes it to each of the residential houses where it will be used. In short, we need to build a second water distribution pipe network to each house. I assume that they will not be mixing the recycled water with our fresh water.


I think you will see that we need b) regardless of whether the sewerage is treated locally or whether it is piped from either of the two existing treatment plants. In either case we need a network of pipes to take the recycled water to individual homes.

As a result I would like to put b) aside for the moment.

Then the issue becomes this.

Is it better to pipe the recycled water from the two treatment plants or is it better to build smaller treatment plants nearer to where the recycled water will be used?

Which is cheaper? I certainly have not seen any costs for these options. It appears to me that we have been given a done deal. It appears that a sewerage treatment plant is going to be built in Manningham and all that is left to decide is where it is going to be built. We have not been given any alternatives nor their costs, for example, like we were given for the Doncaster Rail proposal.

You might think that the cost of putting in large pipes from the two treatment plants back out to the many suburbs would be prohibitively expensive. For example, there would be a lot of disruption as tunneling and digging is done, etc.

However we have a freeway network throughout the southeastern, eastern and western suburbs. If the freeway corridors could be used for part of the return water system from the two treatment plants, then the cost and the disruption would be reduced. Since the state government runs and manages both the water system and the freeway system, it should come down to practical considerations and costs.


Why have we been given a done deal?

Why have we just been told that we are going to get a sewerage treatment plant? Why is this the only option? When the Doncaster Rail project was put to the public, we were interviewed, asked for our opinions, our expectations and so on. And what we said and thought was taken into account in the government report. And in that report we were given options, their pros and cons of each and their costs.

From what I can find out, none of this has been done. The state government has decided what is best and there you are. No discussion. It appears that the only discussion taking place is where the plant is to be built.

Now, if Victorian and Federal ALP governments had a history of carrying out projects successfully, then maybe we could trust their judgement. But unfortunately that is far from the case.

ALP governments at both the state and federal level have a history of poorly managed projects with cost overruns and delays. Just to refresh your memory, let me run through a few of the better known ones.


a) The Desalination Plant.

Do you remember that? A desalination plant was forced on us because the Greens wanted it. And do you remember how stupid the state government was? They were paying for the plant before it was even completed and commissioned. Do you remember when the Liberals took power they were horrified that the State Government was paying for something that had not been completed and were passing the cost back to us the consumers.

The Liberals, being the business minded people they are, stopped this nonsense, reduced our water bills and only started paying for the Desalination plant once it had been completed and commissioned.

Even now, from what I can tell this desalination plant is sitting there as a government white elephant - hardly, if ever used, unused and not really needed.


b) The Roof Insulation Program.

Do you remember that? This was done by a Federal ALP government.

Houses in Melbourne started to catch on fire. It was that bad and that poorly run.

My mother in law lives in a group of units. The roof insulation people came around and started to install the roof insulation WITHOUT ASKING THE OWNERS FOR PERMISSION. I am not kidding you. The body corporate representative told them to get out.

However my mother in law agreed to have the insulation installed. When she heard about the houses catching on file she asked me to go and look at what they had done. When I climbed into the roof cavity, the first thing I saw was that the roof already had quality roof insulation installed. It did not need any more roof insulation. But that did not deter these people. What they had done was spread half the new insulation around on top of the existing insulation and where the roof cavity started to get narrow they just left the insulation bats in piles without actually installing them.

If you remember, you used to see these small pick up trucks simply overflowing with yellow roof insulation around the suburbs. They were cowboys in the worst sense of the word. We found out later from the media that some gangsters from Russia were involved in it - probably because there was easy money was to be had and little if no supervision or follow up.

Again, all this was again done for political reasons. A fiasco of quite literally criminal proportions, carried out on the people of Australia and paid for by the people of Australia. It was done to keep the green lobby happy.


c) The Light Bulb Program.

Do you remember this? Again a federal ALP government was going to save the planet by giving us fluorescent light globes to replace our incandescent ones. Again, this was done to keep the Green lobby placated.

Before any of the light bulb programs started, I had already replaced all the incandescent globes in my house and my units with the smallest wattage globes to reduce electricity costs. My father in law lived in one unit and had a habit of buying very high wattage light globes. I had a box full of 100 watt and even a few 150 watt globes which he bought.

When we heard about the first light bulb replacement program, I quickly swapped out my 25 watt globes and replaced them with the high wattage globes I got from my father in law. The people came, took all my high power globes and replaced them with new fluorescent globes.

A few years later the ALP had ANOTHER light globe exchange. So I again swapped out all the fluorescent and low wattage light globes and replaced them with high wattage globes I had left. They came and took the high wattage globes and replaced them a SECOND time with fluorescent globes.

By this time I was getting quite a collection of fluorescent globes courtesy of the ALP Federal government.

When the Liberals came to power in Canberra, they also had a light bulb exchange program.

All the down-lights in my house still ran incandescent globes. Up until that time only fluorescent globes were offered as part of the programs and neither of the first two programs offered to replace down-light globes. But the third and latest program offered LED down-light globes.

So I took down all my 10 Watt down-light globes and replaced them with all my old 50 watt and 35 watt globes. The government came and replaced them all with new LED globes.

But the Liberals were running this now.

A few weeks later I got a phone call from the people who installed the LED down-light globes asking why I needed them when I have already participated in two prior programs. I told them it was because they did not offer down light globes before and they seemed happy with that.

The point is that when the ALP ran the first two programs they collected all this data about who got the new globes but had no idea how to use it. It did not occur to them that they had set up a program that had no checks in place to ensure the work was done as they wanted it and that their objectives were being met.

When the business minded Liberals came to power they had the sense to use the data that had been collected to put checks in place to make sure they achieved what they wanted.


d) The NBN Broadband network.

We have been told that the NBN in Australia is actually slower than the Internet in Kenya. NBN supporters say this should be questioned but they have not furnished any evidence to date to the contrary.

And do you know that the NBN project in Australia is being used overseas as an example of HOW NOT TO INSTALL an National Broadband network? It appears we are the laughing stock of the world with this slow and problem prone NBN.

And to make matters worse. When 5G becomes available, mobile phones will have faster internet access than what NBN can provide! The NBN will is going to become obsolete in the next few years!

Why on earth did a Federal ALP government go ahead with such a flawed idea?

I have come to think that the NBN was not really done for the benefit of the Australian consumers. I recall that when the NBN was being put forward, there were concerns of a future economic slowdown. From what I can see, the NBN really served two main purposes:

  • It provided an army of tradespeople ongoing employment. We need to recall that tradespeople generally are a major supporter base for the ALP. The ALP version of the NBN had fiber to the home, which meant that an army of tradespeople would be digging trenches and installing fiber optic cable from distribution points on the street into everyone's back yard. It would have taken years to complete and cost a fortune. And the tradespeople would be the ones to benefit in terms of employment and money.

  • It also put the Internet into the hands of the government. To date, the Internet is provided by an army of small companies. What the NBN does is give the federal government is the 'kill switch' for the internet in Australia. If you recall, during the uprisings in Egypt a few years ago, the Egyptian government shut down the internet there. Now the federal government in Canberra can do the same thing - if they ever need to.

I now think that the NBN was never really done for the benefit of the Australian people. That was just the government narrative. It was really done for other reasons.

It looks like we are going to be left with a second rate Internet that is going to be seen as slow and out of date in a few years.


e) The MiKey System.

Do you remember that disaster? The Liberals tell us that we could have had a new hospital for the money the state ALP government wasted on the MiKey system.

From what I heard, one of the main reasons why the costs got out of control was because the minister of Public Transport at the time continually requested and approved a stream of changes to the system. Clearly this minister did not know how to run a project nor control or manage costs.

It took the business minded Liberals to get this system installed and working.


f) The Spencer Street Railway Station.

Do you remember this? John Brumby did not want to have this project finish behind schedule. So he simply declared it 'completed'. Even though there will still workmen there finishing the project.

I find it crazy that he would even take this approach. It seems that it never occurred to the ALP leader at the time that he should put people in charge who can deliver projects on time and within budget.

Instead he played God. He simply 'declared' it finished in the face of facts to the contrary.

It was so funny. It could only make sense to a desperate ALP.


So why do I mention all this?

It is very simple.

There is a very good chance that whatever the ALP does, will:

  • Be done mainly for political and not practical reasons.

  • It will not be thought through properly.

  • It will end up costing much more money than we are told.

  • It will not be managed well.

  • It could end up as a massive waste of money.


If ALP governments had a better track record, maybe we could trust their judgement. But as it stands, I think no, we can't and really we should not.

When it comes to this new sewerage treatment plant project, we should insist on seeing the available options, costs and benefits of each option. We need to see this in detail and not just accept the carefully worded narrative of the government and their agents.

This was done for the Doncaster Rail Project. The same thing should happen now. The public had a lot better understanding of the issues involved with that project than what we have with this one.

We can no longer just leave it to the ALP to get major projects done. Far too often, they carry these projects out for the wrong reasons and end up making a serious mess of them.

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