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Repairing Windsor sewer pipe, plus trucking out sewage, blows out to $32.4m

Jan 12, 2023

The equivalent of a third of Hawkesbury Council’s annual operating budget will be swallowed up by trucking sewage out and repairing a leaking sewer pipe in Windsor – more than a year after the issue was first detected.


Hawkesbury Council will seek to borrow money to pay for the repairs and pump-out trucking costs, the latter costing around $400,000 every month this last year.


Council says work to repair the sewage main has been going on since January 18, 2022 – so almost a year.


Within the year, the cost to simply repair the broken system has spiralled from $2.75m to $18.5m – over six times the initial quote.


Back in March 2022 we reported that the cost of the 24-7 sewage trucking, which began in January last year when a sewer pipe failed, had risen to around $4m. Since then there has been no let up in the truck movements, which has angered nearby Macquarie St residents who say they have been subjected to noise and dust, day and night, and all weekend for a year.


But that $4m trucking cost has now been dwarfed.


By March, at least $13.9m will have been paid to truck operators taking sewage from what’s called Rising Main C near Windsor’s Macquarie St to the McGraths Hill sewage treatment plant by the planned final repair date – said by Council to be reconnection in February, with a final completion of the project by March.


By the time repairs are completed Hawkesbury Council say they will have forked out at least $32.4m for the repairs and the trucking combined – equivalent to around a third of their annual operating budget.


Trucks are running through the night too…


Back in early 2022, the cost for repair of the main pressure sewer line – it crosses South Creek to the east of Hawkesbury Hospital, and behind Windsor Toyota, and is connected to 4000 residents’ homes – was $2.7m, but now it’s $18.5m.


“Costs of the project have been elevated due to the scarcity of required materials, which has forced design changes, the impact of Covid early in 2022, delays and additional impacts caused by four further floods since March 2021 and the enduring wet weather both here and across NSW from the third consecutive La Nina,” Council’s General Manager, Elizabeth Richardson, told the Post.


Hawkesbury is the only council in the Sydney metro area to provide some sewer services, with the vast majority of greater Sydney’s residents and businesses being serviced by Sydney Water.


The cause of the pipe failure – originally it was a fairly simple flange that had fractured between two pipe sections – is put down to flood damage.


Back in March 2022, they were pumping out sewage on Macquarie Street


Early investigations, says Ms Richardson, identified the cause as the March 2021 flood event, and following land subsidence and scouring along South Creek.


“Council’s overriding priority has been the protection of public health,” says Ms Richardson, “through the continuity of service to our customers and by preventing over one million litres of raw sewage from entering the environment each day.”


Last year raw sewage from the failed pipe did flow into the Hawkesbury River and for a relatively short time the river was closed to recreational swimmers due to the pollution.


“While Council had in place a financial buffer,” says Ms Richardson, “the scale of this failure has meant that Council will borrow the required money to ensure the works are completed as quickly as possible.


“As the damage was caused by a declared natural disaster, applications are being made to recoup all of the costs through Disaster Recovery Funding and NSW government assistance, in recognition that sewer and drinking water infrastructure are critical public assets necessary for the basic health and amenity of all communities,” she said.


“Any residual costs borne by Council will be contained within the sewer fund. The impact on the fund will be determined by whether any financial assistance is received by Council.”

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