14 May, 2014

AGENDA ITEM - REVIEW OF COUNCIL'S ON-SITE SEWAGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

TEM-5 ENVIRO - 12/05/14 - REVIEW OF COUNCIL'S ON-SITE SEWAGE
MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

REPORT BY: A MUIR – GROUP MANAGER ENVIRONMENT & DEVELOPMENT

SUMMARY
To advise Council on an updated version of its On-site Sewage Management Strategy.

COMMENTARY
Background

In 1996 there was a food poisoning incident that originated on the Central Coast from
Oyster Farms found in the Lakes system there. Hundreds of people were poisoned. This
incident was traced back to the consumption of oysters from a farm in the Wallis Lakes
area. Studies linked failing septic tanks to the contaminated oysters.

The State Government undertook a survey that showed up to 70% of sewage
management systems were experiencing some type of failure. Surprisingly, many new
systems were also not working efficiently through incorrect installation, maintenance and
management.

This has led to the development of legislation which stipulated that every on-site sewage
management facility in NSW will be inspected to ensure it is not having an adverse
impact on the health of people or the surrounding environment.

In addition to this it was necessary for Council’s to develop an on-site sewerage
management strategy and develop a data base of all on-site sewerage systems in the
Local Government area. To date Council Officers have compiled a database and believe
that the following on-site effluent disposal systems exist in the Local Government area
are:


Septic Systems 2,047
Aerated Systems 709
Ecomax Systems 23
Composting Systems 24
Pumpout Systems 19
Total 2,822
The most recent version of Council’s On-site Sewage Management Strategy was
adopted by Council on 22 November 2010. Since that time Council’s On-site Sewage
Inspection program has been proceeding well with a total of 1440 septic system
inspections undertaken to date. Of the inspections thus far the following breakup of
systems identified has been:
  
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High Risk 173 12% of systems inspected
Medium
Risk
607 42% of systems inspected
Low Risk 660 46% of systems inspected
Total 1,440

The failure rate of systems inspected has been approximately 35% although failure rates
are generally not major or a risk to public health and safety and are for the most part
wholly contained within the property boundary. To date the compliance rate has been
positive and thus far no legal action has been necessary against any parties.

It is in order to review the current strategy which has been undertaken by Council staff
and carry out consultation in relation to the updated document.

The main changes to the revised strategy are not major with the most notable change
being the reduction of the approval period for high risk properties from 6 years to 2 years.
The main reasoning for this is that the current inspection frequency for high risk premises
is 2 years and it makes sense for the approval period to aligned with the inspection
frequency.

Whilst Council's fees and charges are set separately to the strategy, it is necessary for
the current fee structure to be reviewed. The main reason for this is that funding has
been provided by the Sydney Catchment Authority which is due to cease on 30 June
2014. This funding commenced in January 2012 and at the end of the program it will
have realised $146,000 in income to subsidise the program. A small amount of income
will be received in the 2014/2015 financial year from the final grant claim. The fees have
to be increased to cover this loss of income which would equate to $58,400 per annum.
When the current strategy and fees were reviewed in 2010 the Council requested that
the fees for the inspection and approval be included with annual rates notices. At that
time all systems had to be assumed as low risk as inspections had generally not been
carried out. Consequently, properties are currently charged annually $5.50 for approval
and $7.60 for inspection which equates to $13.10 per applicable rate notice. Since the
inspection program has progressed, more data has been gathered on whether properties
are low, medium or high risk. Consequently, it is now possible to more accurately levy
an annual fee for both inspections and approvals based on the risk category. With this in
mind it is proposed to combine the inspection and approval fee and the following fee
structure is proposed for 2014/2015:


High Risk Annual fee for inspection and approval $33.10

Medium Risk Annual fee for inspection and approval $29.10

Low Risk Annual fee for inspection and approval $24.10
  
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These charges are anticipated to provide the following revenue:

Risk 
Category 
Number of 
Systems 
Proposed Fee 
2014/2015  Projected Revenue 
High  173  $33.10 $5,726.30 
Medium 
607  $29.10 $17,663.70 
Low  1333  $24.10 $32,125.30 
Total  2113*  $55,515.30 
*Aerated systems are not currently charged. Therefore, 709 systems not charged.

It still may be necessary in future years to further adjust the fee structure to increase the
fees further in proportion to the risk category given that Medium and High Risk systems
receive more regular inspections and approvals. Furthermore, whilst the proposed fee
increase in 2014/2015 will cover the loss of grant income it would still be the intention to
move toward a situation where all costs associated with providing the service are
covered by user fees. However, the fee structure proposed for 2014/2015 is considered
to be a fair step that provides a reasonable revenue stream without an unreasonable
impost on the owners of on-site wastewater systems.

Finally, whilst there has not been a significant change to the strategy it has been
Council’s experience that the issue does attract a great deal of community interest in
rural areas. In 2009 and 2010, responding to community concerns, public meetings were
held in Hartley and Hampton. The issue is a sensitive one, but the inspection program
has now been progressing well with a good level of co-operation. It would be proposed to
place the reviewed Strategy on public exhibition and invite submissions.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS
NIL

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
In 2014/15 under the current charges, expected revenue would be $27,680.30. If the
proposed fee structure is adopted it would be anticipated that $55,515.30 would be
realised.


2014/15 at current $13.10

2014/15 proposed fee structure

$27,680.30


$55,515.30

LEGAL IMPLICATIONS
The following Legislation has varying levels of applicability to the strategy.

Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979
  
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Local Government Act 1993

Local Government (General) Regulation 2005

Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997

Public Health Act 2010

Catchment Management Authorities Act 2003

ATTACHMENTS

1. On-site Sewage Management Strategy – Revised version

RECOMMENDATION

THAT:
1. Council place on Public Exhibition, the revised version of its On-site Sewage
Management strategy for a period of 30 days and submissions be invited.
2. All submissions be reported back to Council for final adoption of the revised

strategy. 

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