Clean Oceans Collective

Wannon Water is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment in line with community expectations.

In recent years we have observed growing community support in tackling the problem of plastics in waterways and on local beaches.

As part of our strategic direction of going “beyond water for strong communities”, we initiated and sponsored the Clean Oceans Collective. The collective is a partnership between the community, Wannon Water, Warrnambool City Council, Moyne Shire Council, Glenelg Shire Council and the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority (GHCMA).

Wannon Water provided $30,000 in seed funding for the program which has included a series of workshops led by the nationally recognised marine debris organisation Tangaroa Blue Foundation.

The foundation aims to create change on a large scale with the support of the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI), a volunteer network that contributes information about ocean debris to a national database.

Monitoring sites have been set up along the coast from Warrnambool to Port Fairy, allowing a network of volunteers to contribute information to the database. They can then identify issues and work with communities, industry and government to address the problem by creating source reduction plans.

The Clean Oceans Collective was established following an incident at the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant in November 2017 when small pre-production plastic pellets, known as nurdles, washed up along local beaches.

The nurdles were spilled from the ocean outfall of the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant following an illegal dumping into the facility. The incident is believed to be the first time that nurdles have been expelled from a sewage treatment plant in Australia. Despite investigations and inspections, it is likely that the original source of the nurdles may never be found.

Nurdles are small and light and are easily distributed by ocean currents. The subsequent clean-up efforts by the community and agencies demonstrated that the problem of plastic pollution on beaches goes far beyond just nurdles.

While the vast majority of nurdles have now been removed, small numbers continue to be observed along our coastline, including some that are unrelated to the incident at our sewage treatment plant. 

Sewage treated at the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant is screened as it enters the plant. This removes the majority of foreign objects such as wet wipes, cotton buds, sanitary products and other objects that should never be flushed down the toilet or sink.

Two outfall screens were installed after the nurdle incident and these now provide extra environmental protections, reducing the likelihood of microplastics being discharged to the ocean mixing zone.

We're about to commence a $40 million expansion of our Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant, increasing its capacity to cater for industrial and residential growth. This will include new influent and effluent screening technology to meet changing community expectations.

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