An investigation lasting more than two months has failed to identify the source of millions of small plastic pieces – nurdles – that made their way into the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant.
The spill of an unknown number of nurdles through the plant into the ocean last November – which ended up along south-west beaches from past Port Fairy to Warrnambool – sparked a multi-government-agency clean-up after the incident was declared a state emergency.
Wannon Water has been investigating the original source of the nurdles with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The plant treats sewage and trade waste from Warrnambool, Allansford and Koroit.
The EPA has been investigating whether Wannon Water breached its licence by allowing the nurdles to be released into the ocean.
Wannon Water managing director Andrew Jeffers said the organisation had inspected a number of sites that could have been the source of the nurdles and said despite a “rigorous and methodical investigation” there was no way of knowing exactly how many nurdles were dumped into the sewerage system.
“Nurdle samples collected from the treatment plant have been sent to two separate laboratories for testing and analysis,” he said.
“We are waiting on the full results of those tests to determine if they contain any information that could help our investigation.”
Mr Jeffers said the organisation was determined to continue its investigations for as long as necessary, however he said the original source may never be found, and not enough evidence may be gathered to support legal proceedings.
At the beginning of January, Wannon Water said its role in cleaning up the nurdles had cost more than $200,000. The organisation was issued an EPA notice to clean-up and take remedial action to prevent a recurrence.
Mr Jeffers said individuals should not speculate on the source of the nurdles, saying it could “undermine our investigation and cause unfair reputational damage to local firms and companies.”