The Port Fairy Pipeline Supply Support Group has raised concerns about the small town's sewage treatment plant as it campaigns for Port Fairy to be linked up to Warrnambool's drinking water supply.
The group produced testimony from a long-time professional diver in the area, suggesting the ocean outfall from the plant was destroying the adjacent marine life, an allegation Wannon Water, which operates the facility, categorically rejects.
Port Fairy resident John Konings, who heads up the pipeline advocacy group, said he was raising the issue as Wannon Water confronted a decision about how to improve the town's drinking water.
Wannon Water has narrowed the choice down to two options: building a desalination plant to treat local groundwater, or connect Port Fairy to the Otway supply that Warrnambool uses.
Mr Konings has argued only the pipeline option would allow Wannon Water to transition from having to pump treated sewage out to sea.
"The greatly improved quality of the piped water into the town would mean this very undesirable discharge practice could finally stop because the future treated sewerage water would then also be much better quality, so instead it could be productively used on land for irrigation and watering of public lands," Mr Konings said.
Mr Jeffers disagreed, saying even if Wannon Water chose to build a desalination plant it could still upgrade its sewage plant, so "the treatment (desalination) plant option doesn't preclude recycling sewage in future," he said.
But Mr Jeffers also took issue with the allegation that the sewage outfall was an environmental hazard.
"It's not a valid point to say... there are negative impacts on the environment from the current sewage treatment plant, so I'd certainly take issue with that. It's got a licence, which is closely monitored by the EPA," he said.
"It's clean, it's clear, the nutrients have been removed. It's a reasonably benign discharge into the coastal environment and we've got all the data to support that."
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Mr Konings cited an unnamed "expert local diver", who said, "the "Griffiths Island Bay" area at the outfall has been denuded of the previous natural vegetation and replaced with "dead white material" and green algal slime. The once plentiful fish, abalone and crayfish are no longer there".
"While the outlet of the sewerage effluent is out to sea, the local currents and tides are bringing obvious pollutants back to shore... The previous sewerage problems perhaps best described as 'floating debris' appear to be less, but the environmental damage to the seabed is certainly not less, it is only expanding," the diver said.
But Mr Jeffers said Wannon Water performed regular checks of both the effluent discharge at the outfall and the general condition of the surrounding marine area.
"We do biology and amenity surveys along the coast, which pick up whether there's any impact from the discharge, and the results show no impact," he said.
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