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Originally published 24May2009



Yes! Our elected councilors will decide on whether or not to approve the Woolworths on-site sewage application. Have you seen the site lately? It is saturated!!

Byron Shire Council staff have now received the "further information" from Woolworths and they are preparing an "Assessment Report" to give to the Councillors. I have asked Council for a copy of this report.

Having the s68 sewage application approved is pivotal for Woolworths so they can then get a construction certificate and start to build their big box.

We have been told by Ray Darney that MCAN will be advised of the council meeting when the s68 application will be discussed; I"ll send out the news to you as soon as I get it. This council meeting might be a good time for us to show up with full colours, banners and community response (TV, newspapers, etc).

Co-incidentally, after six months of asking, I have now received a copy of the "Whitehead Review". Whitehead Associates are the environmental consultants employed by the Dept Planning late last year to make a report on the Woolworths modified plans for their big box in Mullumbimby. It is because of this Whitehead Review that the Dept Planning approved the Woolworths plans on 12th Jan this year. Finally I've got a copy of this through FOI (Freedom of Information Act) from the Dept Planning; cost $30. As I read it, one word comes to mind – one that Garry uses a lot when referring to Woolworths sewage proposals: "ludicrous".

I will now try to explain, in ordinary language, what"s been going on and what the Review says. Basically, Woolworths need to make their proposal look as if it will work. They need to convince us that they will only be using a very little water so it will all sink away into the ground, and everyone will be happy. The thing is, the ground they are hoping to use as "irrigation" for their wastewater is soggy, boggy and just 500metres from the tidal river. It"s that bit of paddock by the railway line that floods. Furthermore, it"s a big supermarket on a very small site.

In order to get the on-site wastewater treatment system approved, Woolworths need to supply figures showing they"ll only be using a little water. Woolworths propose a number of things to reduce the amount of wastewater that is usually generated by a supermarket of that size. For instance:

Woolworths won"t be processing meat or most delicatessen items on the Mullumbimby site (until it is connected to the new mains sewer at least 2 years away). Who is going to ensure this? Byron Shire Council??

Woolworths will have high level water efficiency fixtures and practices. (The efficiency, however, of any tap or fixture is only as efficient as the person who uses it.)

SPECIAL CLEANING PRODEDURES: Woolworths have prepared a special "cleaning procedures document" which shows how the cleaners will save water by using a 7L bucket instead of a hose which is normally used for many these jobs. The bucket is specified for some 58 jobs, eg cleaning meat rails. benches, pumpkin cutters, walls, rubbish bins and coolroom doors, walls and floors. Estimated daily water usage in litres is listed for each job. An example is the cleaning of the shelves and racks in the coolroom with a bucket will use 1.28 litres of water and it will be done once a week. (That"s about a kettleful of water: how big are the shelves and racks?) The coolroom walls get the same weekly treatment using 1.28L water. The cabinets/displays in the trading area are also allocated 1.28L water for a weekly wash with a bucket. Is this hygienic for a supplier of "fresh food"? How big is each of these areas to clean with a kettleful of water? The meat and cheese slicers however get 27L water per day and are washed every 4 hours. (Perhaps there is a regulation here).

Using a 7L bucket for 58 jobs is going to be far less efficient than the usual hosing. Again, who will be watching to see the "special cleaning procedures" are carried out as specified?

PUBLIC TOILET ALLOCATION: Whiteheads estimate the amount of water per day for the public toilet will be 250L; that is for the loo and for hand basin. Since Woolworths, in their little green book entitled "Woolworths in Mullumbimby" given out at the public meeting last May, estimates that their catchment population is over 17,000 people, 250L per day seems a very small amount of water for public toilet use. What will Woolworths do when their daily allocation is used up? Lock the toilet doors? Who is going to count the flushes??

CHEMICALS IN WASTEWATER: Whiteheads encourage Woolworths to find cleaning/sanitation agents which won"t decimate the microorganisms which are crucial for the septic tanks, sand filter and soil in the effluent irrigation areas. Have Woolworths come up with an alternative which will sanitise the equipment and surfaces in accordance with health regulations, AND not have a detrimental effect on the vital microorganisms???

EFFLUENT DISPOSAL BY IRRIGATION: To stop the effluent seeping across carparks, footpaths and boundary buffers a 15mm kerb will be put around the irrigation area which will also (supposedly) stop floodwaters entering the irrigation area. An intricate system of soil moisture sensors will have to be installed to continually monitor the soil"s carrying capacity. Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling stress that "the effluent should never cause the soil to become saturated". Interestingly, the site is usually saturated anyway and the Station Street ditch alongside the Woolworths site has had water in it since the Woolworths announcement in Jan 2008.

HALF METRE BUFFER ZONE: Has Byron Shire Council agreed to accept the half a metre buffer which is proposed between the on-site irrigation system and the Council"s boundary? How can Woolworths predict the effluent won"t seep beyond this decreed line? Are Woolworths like King Canute who decreed the tide not to rise?

CONCLUSION: Have Woolworths been able to come up with answers to the above questions in their latest "information" supplied to Council this week? Are their stringent controls and management practices likely to work? Who will be making sure they comply with their own promises? The whole thing looks, as Garry Scott would say "ludicrous". We eagerly await Council"s assessment of Woolworths "new information".

CONTACTING COUNCILLORS: Although they are super busy and earn only peanuts, we do have a democratic right to contact them to share our concerns. Separate messages to each councilor may get a response. Congratulations to Cr Simon Richardson and his partner on the birth of their first child.

Councillors details are:;;;;;;;;;;

Ideally Woolworths should wait for the new Mullum STP and send their sewage over there. This was what was originally approved for the Mallams Stage Two. Everybody else has to wait for the STP, why not Woolworths?


GE FOOD LABELLING PETITION: Do you want to know whether your bread contains GE wheat? If so, sign the petition! We need to lobby to get food labeled, otherwise it won"t happen.

TRANSITION TOWN IN VICTORIA? How can a community survive in the face of peak oil and climate change? Transition Towns are happening in Queensland and now Victoria. Our local TT contact is David Hall 66804728: See our website calander for David"s DVD showings on Tuesdays.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Treasurer Wayne Swan"s Budget Speech: "Small business is the backbone of the economy and are the largest employers, employing 4 million people".


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