Frequently Asked Questions

Council has compiled the following list of Frequently Asked Questions based on the history of the project, questions from the Bundarra community, and contributions from staff with the benefit of knowledge and experience with similar projects in other regions of NSW.

If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact Council on (02) 6778 6300 or via email at council@uralla.nsw.gov.au.

Is there an update with regard to costs for electrical and plumbing upgrades to private buildings? 

Uralla Shire Council resolved at its July 2nd 2021 Extraordinary Meeting to support using the project contingency to pay for Private Works, i.e. the electrical and plumbing works required to be completed on private buildings within the scheme to connect to the sewerage system.

What does this mean;

- Electrical upgrades to property owners buildings, as detailed in the audit reports will be completed by Ledonne Constructions and their subcontractors.

- Plumbing upgrades to property owners buildings, as detailed in the audit reports will be completed by Ledonne Constructions and their subcontractors.

The costs incurred for this work will be paid for by the Bundarra Sewerage Scheme fund. Owners will be required to sign a Section 67 agreement for the work to be undertaken, at $0 charge to the property owners.

Background

Why does Bundarra need a low pressure sewer system?

The scheme is needed in order to reduce pollution, reduce public health risks, improve amenity and water quality of the Gwydir River. There are documented issues with failed disposal systems (trenches and irrigation) due to unsuitable soil and strata particularly during extended wet weather periods.

An Investigation and Strategy Report undertaken by Public Works in 1989 stated:

"A reticulated waste water and treatment system will have a significant beneficial impact on sanitation and public health and will eliminate the absorption problems being experienced." 

There are communities downstream of Bundarra that source drinking water from the Gwydir River. Reducing the potential for waste water inputs from the Bundarra community improves water quality in downstream systems. 

How long has the scheme been planned for?

The need for a reticulated sewer scheme was identified in the 1970s, however, a lack of funding meant that the scheme was unaffordable for Council.

Council has now secured grant funding through the Safe and Secure Water Program and construction of the scheme is now achievable. The NSW State Government recognises the importance of the project and has committed to providing up to $6,354,000 to ensure the project is successfully delivered to the Bundarra community.

Is my house included in the scheme?

The final boundaries and number of properties included in the scheme has not been concluded. The maps of north and south Bundarra below show the approximate boundary of the scheme, this boundary includes 165 properties. 

The scheme boundaries and final number of properties may change depending on the final design and any new Development Applications lodged before the scheme is commissioned. 

Will the scheme be sized to allow for population growth?

The concept design process will include population growth scenarios. The treatment plant will be provided with the capacity for enlargement and growth based on these scenarios.

What is a low pressure sewer system?

A low pressure sewer system consists of a series of positive displacement grinder pumps moving finely ground domestic waste water material along a network of small diameter polyethylene pipes. This in turn is connected via a single pump station and pipe to a sewerage treatment plant.

Are low pressure schemes used elsewhere?

Housing developments in Tamworth (Hill Plain) and the village of Tingha use low pressure sewer systems. They are also used in Coffs Harbour, Cabonne and the Richmond Valley Council region (e.g. Broadwater and Woodburn). 

At your home, about the system

What is the system, what will it look like at my home?

The system will be a change from on-site treatment and disposal of wastewater within the property to a reticulated system with a single remote treatment plant.  

Each house will have its own low pressure pump and tank and will be connected to a sewerage collection line outside the home.  This collection system will transport the waste water into a pump station and from there to a treatment plant via a rising main. 

Domestic-pod.jpg

 Top of pump unit protruding approximately 10 cm above ground, Diameter of pump unit lid is approximately 1 meter.

 

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Location of pod control panel on side of house

Where will pods be located?

There is some flexibility for residents regarding the location of the pod. You will have the chance to state your preference during the property audit. However, as close as possible to the existing septic tank is likely to be most cost effective location.

Older houses have sewer tank and grey water points. If the greywater is on the opposite side of tank are the costs borne by property owner?

Yes.

What waste water will the system treat?

Pressure sewer systems are only designed to accept household waste water (greywater and black water). Stormwater or rainwater cannot be connected to the system.

In lower lying areas where houses are close together can we use one pod?

Every property will require its own pod.

What size are the pods?

Pods come in different sizes ranging from approximately 660 litres to over 900 litres. The project will assume a minimum standard pod size based on 200 litres of water a day for an average household (3.2 people), or 660 litres.

Is 660 litres big enough for a larger family?

The pump will discharge water every time it reaches a prescribed volume limit in the pod. Large families will be able to run their washing machines, toilets, dishwasher as normal. The pump will process the additional load by running more frequently than it would for a smaller household. Most of the pod volume is to provide emergency storage.

Pump flow rates vary with manufacturer and the amount of ‘head’ pressure at your property.

You might also like to read information below "How much power will the pump use?" and "How much will it cost to run the pump?"

Who will own and maintain the system?

Uralla Shire Council will own and maintain the system, including the control panel, pod and discharge pipe. Property owners will be responsible for their connection from the house to the pump unit, including the drainage pipework connecting to the pump unit. An operation manual will be provided to each household during commissioning of the system. Only the approved technicians will have access to the pod and the pod control panel for repairs and/or maintenance.

How loud is the pump?

The pumps are very quiet. The pump that pumps the wastewater is located at the bottom of the pod, about 1 metre below ground level.

What’s in the control panel?

The control panel contains an alarm system and is the electrical connection between the pod and your switch board. It also contains the system telemetry that allows for automatic operation (e.g. off peak pump operation), remote monitoring of the pod (e.g. identifying blockages, tank storage levels). The sophistication of these features depends on the specific design needs of the scheme.

What happens if there is a power failure?

Pods are sized to have emergency storage capacity. During times of power failure the user needs to be mindful of their water usage until power is restored. Protection against brown outs is an optional component of a pressure sewer system and can be easily installed to protect the pump against this type of occurrence. Most pump units have a minimum of 24 hours storage.

How much power will the pump use?

The average domestic pod will use 0.75 kW/hr – 1.0 kW/hr or 1.3 horse power. The total electricity used by the unit is related to how intensely it is used. The electricity cost is in turn related to the tariff for your electricity at the time it is used.

My property is off grid. What power does the pump use?

The average domestic pod will use 0.75 kW/hr – 1.0 kW/hr or 1.3 horse power. The energy consumption is related to the volume of waste water generated by the dwelling.

When will I be connected?

Construction is well underway with the system expected to be fully operational by December 2021. It is expected individual properties will be connected commencing in October 2021.

Existing septic systems

Do property owners have to decommission existing septic or other on-site treatment systems?

Yes, although you can continue to use grey water by treating it through Department of Health approved treatment device. Hence, existing on-site treatment systems may be adequate for continued water treatment.

Will Council reconsider requiring those with Biocycle systems to decommission their system?

Every dwelling in the service area will be required to connect to the new sewer system.

How do we decommission the old septic tank?

When the time comes to decommission the old septic tank the sludge is sucked out, the tank disinfected, a hole is created in the bottom of the tank, the cement top is broken and dropped into the empty tank, then the tank is filled-in to ground level (using suitable material). This work will be arranged by the property owner.

Can old septic tanks be used for water storage? Would Council consider this?

Council has taken this request on notice and will have more information for the community at a later stage.

Property Audits

What is a property audit?

The purpose of the audit is to discuss with the owner the location of the pod, and to identify if upgrades to the electrical switchboard or plumbing are required before construction work begins.

How likely is it that household switchboard or plumbing will have to be upgraded?

Sometimes power supply from street and/or switchboard needs to be upgraded. Existing waste water plumbing on the property will need to be compliant with the National Plumbing Code. There will be more specific information for each property after an audit of each property’s electrical supply and plumbing is completed. Older dwellings are considered to be more likely to require upgrades.

What is an electrical upgrade likely to cost?

The maximum cost of electrical upgrade, if a full upgrade is required, would be $6,257 plus GST, however the cost for most households will be much lower.

The Contractor’s electrician has carried out an audit for each scheme customer and has indicated in a schedule which of the line items the property owner may require to be updated to meet compliance.

Note: The schedule includes potential costs for both 1 and 2/3 phase power. Residents would not have requirements for both power types but only one.

Property owners are also able to choose which electrician they would like to engage for the upgrade work.  

When will the property audit be?

The audit has been completed, however should there be confusion or further explanation of the audit items please contact Uralla Shire Council and an appointment with the Project Manager and/or Electrician can be scheduled for assistance.

Is there a charge for the property audit?

There is no charge to residents/property owners for the audit.

Sewage Treatment Plant

Where will the pump station and treatment plant be located?

The location of the pump station and the location of the treatment plant is yet to be determined. The treatment plant will be located away from the urban area.

What is the treatment process?

The sewage treatment plant will likely consist of a series of lagoons. Water will evaporate from the lagoons and on occasion it will be used for irrigation.

Can we use sewage effluent to irrigate sports fields?

Council has taken this question on notice. It will depend on factors such as the location of the treatment plant, method of irrigation and on-site controls.

Scheme costs, funding and your rates

What will the funding cover?

On the property, Council and NSW Government funding will pay for:

  • The pod (tank and pump),
  • Up to 5 meters of piping to connect the pod to existing property drainage,
  • Electrical wiring to the switch board,
  • The control panel, and
  • The pressure line to the street.

Outside the property, Council and the NSW Government funding will pay for:

  • The collection main and junction connections,
  • The main pump station and rising main,
  • The sewage treatment plant, and
  • Disposal infrastructure.

What will property owners have to pay for?

Property owners will have to make arrangements to decommission the septic tank or other on-site treatment system. Property owners will also have to pay for any necessary plumbing upgrades that are needed to be compliant with current standards.

If identified during the audit, owners will have to upgrade the main switchboard at the home to comply with electrical standards and power supply to the property.

Residents will also need to cover electricity costs associated with running the pump, which will be included on the property owner’s electricity bill.

Any costs associated with repairs due to improper use of the sewer system will be borne by the resident/property owner.

How much will it cost to run the pump?

The average power use of a pod is 0.75 kW/hr – 1.0 kW/hr or 1.3 horse power. The total electricity used by the unit is related to how intensely it is used. The electricity cost is in turn related to the tariff for your electricity at the time it is used.

For example, if your current peak electricity tariff is $0.34 (including all charges and GST), and the pump runs for 12 minutes a day in total it will cost you: $0.34 X 0.75 X 0.2 = $0.051 per day, or $18.61 per year.

The cost of running the pump will rise in association with rising electricity costs.

What is the sewer access charge?

Council determined at its July 2020 Ordinary Meeting that the 2020/21 fees and charges associated to the Bundarra Sewerage Scheme would be Nil. This includes the annual sewerage levy, access, and usage charges. Fees and charges will commence in 2021/22. Annually the charges for this is $632.00 + GST. 

What has happened to the money Bundarra residents have already paid for the Scheme?

Sewer Access Charges for Bundarra property owners included in the project design area were introduced at the beginning of the 2017/18 financial year however discontinued in 2019/20 due to delays in the project. These funds have been used toward the capital cost of the project and have not been used to fund other Council work or projects.

My house is not within the boundaries of the scheme, do I have to pay the sewer charge?

Any house that is not included in the boundaries of the scheme will not be charged a sewer charge.

If the project goes beyond the estimate of $8.81 million, will sewer charges rise?

Council would determine the necessary charges for the combined systems based on financial modelling.

Vacant blocks

Will vacant blocks be given a connection?

A boundary kit and a junction will be added to the rising main outside the property. Vacant blocks will not have the pod installed.