Linking old septic tanks for a cleaner river

Water activities on the Yarra in Warrandyte. Photo Jay Turko
The Yarra River will benefit from new sewerage system in Warrandyte North. Jay Turko reports.


Did you know that suburbs within 30 km of Melbourne’s CBD still do not have underground sewerage systems?

And would you believe that steep, hilly suburbs located directly on the Yarra River still operate entirely on septic tanks?

The ‘North Warrandyte Sewage Project’, to the delight of the residents of the Nillumbik Shire suburb of North Warrandyte, will soon allow homes currently using aged septic tanks to connect to a sewerage system, which will take sewage to a proper treatment facility.

This new underground infrastructure will allow the residents to connect to the system, preventing overflow from old and damaged septic tanks from flowing down waterways and directly into the Yarra.

“Thirty-two km of pipe now reaches 990 homes,” said Brendan Moore, Yarra Valley Water Project Manager.

The $25 million project will “ensure environment sustainability” and “maintain public health”.

The project has been “well received” by the “proud and environmentally conscious” residents of North Warrantee, said Brendan.

In heavy rains aging septic tanks often overflow, with run-off making its way into creeks and the Yarra River. And when not working properly can create pungent odors in the hotter months.

The Yarra River runs to the south of North Warrandyte and is a popular tourist attraction and an important natural resource for the community. The river is used for many water activities and offers lots of walking trails.

Sean Marler from Whitehorse Canoe Club said the new system will “absolutely improve” the water quality from effluent running into the river.

“Suspended solids” and “odours” are noticeable after small rain events, said Sean, who has been canoeing in the North Warrandyte area since 1993.

Cracks and a lack of maintenance are reasons why the old septic tanks are overflowing and not working, as they should.

One local resident, Megan Gibbs, said that she was “glad” to not have to walk and drive through overflow from the steep properties on her street.

Overflow from the high side of The Boulevard often makes its way into Stony Creek on the lower side of the road, and on to the Yarra River.

Septic tanks were installed in these challenging properties, as infrastructure was limited at the time of building.

Since moving onto The Boulevard two years ago Megan has always been “uncomfortable” with the run-off going into the river and it is a “relief” that the
sewerage system has been installed.

Linking old septic tanks for a cleaner river
The Boulevard, Warrandyte North. Photo Jay Turko

It is often “too expensive” for homeowners to replace damaged septic tanks, particularly knowing that the new pipes were on the agenda, said Megan.

Neighboring town, Warrandyte, received underground sewerage lines from Yarra Valley Water three years ago, but not all residents were satisfied.

Local plumber, Ian Bell, told the Leader newspaper that poorly located connection points provided by Yarra Valley Water made it “more expensive” for
residents to connect to the system.

Ian blamed “shonky works” by Yarra Valley Water when installing the connection points as the reason behind the additional costs being incurred,
which he did not pass on to residents for “fear” of his reputation.

Ian offered a set price to connect houses to the new system but said connection points often being in an “incorrect location” and property boundaries not being “clearly defined” as the main reasons for the additional works, which were not the homeowner’s fault.

When asked about the overall satisfaction of North Warrandyte residents, Tony Welsh from H2 Pro Plumbing had a different response. He said that he had only come across “one challenging property”, and that the overall works “haven’t been a problem”.

It is “unrealistic” to offer set prices, as all jobs are different, he said, who says there are “six to twelve” local plumbers working full time on sewer connections in the area.

Besides the issues with the connection points in Warrandyte, the overall feeling is beneficial as the environmental impact of damaged septic tanks can be
catastrophic for the environment.

The lines have been available for local residents to connect to since last December. Residents will have a 12-month grace period to connect to the new sewage system or will incur the ‘Sewer Contribution Fee’ of $1584.94.