Wannon Water says it will launch an investigation and report to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) after thousands of tiny plastic beads washed up on Warrnambool’s Shelly Beach.
The authority says plastic beads, known as nurdles, have been disposed of illegally through Warrnambool’s sewage treatment system, which releases treated water into the ocean.
Wannon Water service delivery general manager Ian Bail said the organisation was investigating the source of the plastic and would be reporting the incident to the EPA.
“The plant treats sewage and trade waste from Warrnambool, Allansford, and Koroit and has multiple systems in place, including fine screens, to filter out the huge majority of plastics and other foreign material,” he said.
“However, they are not designed to remove tiny plastics such as these nurdles.”
Volunteers spent hours at the beach on Monday and Tuesday cleaning up the tiny plastic beads with sieves and buckets.
“The beads have washed up on the nearby beach and we applaud those who have been out today cleaning up other people’s mess,” Mr Bail said.
He also said it was the first time the authority had recorded nurdles creating problems at the plant.
A Facebook group set up by Warrnambool resident Colleen Hughson has been tracking plastic found at the beach for months, and a call was put out for a clean-up to occur after the plastic beads were discovered.
The Standard put questions to Wannon Water about the source of the plastic beads, which prompted its announcement of an investigation into the issue.
Ms Hughson said it was lucky the group found the nurdles.
“They could have been easily washed back into the ocean and nobody would know about this,” she said.
“Myself and a group of friends have been picking up plastics off Shelly Beach since August and ideally, we'd like to stop as much plastic from entering our oceans as we can.
“It was a massive effort today cleaning up the plastic nurdles off the beach and it was so heart-warming to have a bunch of strangers turn up and help out.
“There are still plenty … along the coastline close to the sewage treatment outfall so it would be wonderful if everyone could lend a hand in getting these plastics out of the marine environment. It would be terrific to see some Wannon Water staff helping out."