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“Much of the existing North Grafton STP (pictured) will be life-expired by 2027 and require renewal, with some structures over 90 years old,” the report to the June 2017 CVC meeting stated. “The inlet works at the North Grafton STP was upgraded in 2010, and while the strategy considered reusing this part of the STP, it was not considered feasible.” Image: Geoff Helisma

Grafton sewage plant decision ‘on the nose’

Geoff Helisma


Councillors have unanimously supported a Notice of Motion (NOM) to “review [the] former council’s decision, to construct a new sewage treatment plant (STP) on the existing north Grafton STP site”.

Cr Karen Toms’s NOM to the June 2022 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting was not debated.

The former council, including councillors Toms, Greg Clancy and Debrah Novak, voted unanimously, without debate, at the June 2017 CVC meeting, to adopt “the North Grafton STP Detailed Concept Strategy, as exhibited … without amendment”.

On that occasion, no submissions were lodged with CVC during the exhibition period, February 24 to May 12.

At the 2017 meeting, councillors also adopted “the strategy’s recommended option of a new STP being constructed on the existing North Grafton STP site”, adjacent to the Clarence River at North Street.

Cr Toms wrote in her NOM to the June 2022 CVC meeting, “North Street has a history of flooding and will require generators when the power is cut.

“It is also alleged staff will need to access the STP by boat during significant flood in the area.

“…It is my understanding residents in the buffer zone have not been approached or consulted in relation to the impacts of odour on their amenity with the upgrade of the North Grafton STP in North Street.

“Councillors are yet to receive a report of the associated and ancillary costs of upgrading the North Grafton Sewage Treatment Plant on the existing site, including but not limited to the removal of the existing sewage ponds, which contain copious quantities of asbestos.

“Recent flooding of STPs in Lismore, Ballina and Byron Bay local government areas is a timely wakeup call that placing STPs in flood zoned areas should be avoided.”

The report to the June 2017 CVC meeting estimated a capital cost of “$26.8 million, with the the North Grafton STP Pollution Reduction Program conditions requiring construction to commence in 2025/26 and be completed by December 31, 2027.

“…The strategy has estimated the additional annual operating cost of the new STP as $0.29 million….”

At the June 2022 CVC meeting, councillors supported the tabling of a report, “including a comparative consideration of the risks, advantages and disadvantages of both the North Street and the Clarenza sites … no later than the August 2022 CVC meeting.

“…The report [to] include … the flood impact/constraints on the North Street site; all current day construction costs, including any escalation estimates; all valuations and/or estimated financial costs associated with property acquisitions …; what actions have been taken to formally advise any property owners that their property is impacted and/or required by council for construction of the new STP …; and any consequences associated with time delays for compulsory acquisitions.”