When complete, the effluent reuse project, co-ordinated by Southern Cross University’s (SCU) Centre for Ecotechnology, will include 600,000 paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) trees on 25 hectares of wetland near the West Byron Bay Sewage Treatment Plant.
Project co-ordinator, Dr Keith Bolton, said 300,000 trees had been planted over the past two years and a team of 20 people, including 10 Conservation Volunteers Australia, would begin site preparation and planting of a further 300,000 trees this week.
Dr Bolton said the trees would process the effluent by acting as high-rate pumps, removing up to 170,000 litres of effluent per hectare per day.
“It is really a showpiece project. It has certainly attracted a lot of interest from around Australia and overseas. We are talking to a number of other councils about using this technology,” Dr Bolton said.
He said the benefits were not only in the reuse of effluent, but in regenerating a wetland area.
“We are also doing it to manage acid sulphate soils and we are also negotiating for carbon credits for the system. It’s an utterly unique project. We are turning it into a resource.”
Dr Bolton said the trees cleaned the water to a high standard, known as ‘effluent polishing’ and through irrigation reduced the risk of acid sulphate soils.
The project is a collaboration between SCU, Byron Shire Council, Environment Australia and NSW Agriculture’s Wollongbar Institute.
Dr Bolton said the Centre for Ecotechnology, which was officially launched in June this year, was working on a number of other projects involving effluent reuse and water quality.
It has also led to the establishment of a spin-off company, Eco Technology Australia, which has recently won its first contract.
Dr Bolton said the drought had heightened people’s awareness of the value of water and the need to come up with new ways of saving our natural resources.
“The main projects we will be working on are providing water and sewerage systems for local councils, developers and the feedlot industries.”
Photo caption: Dr Keith Bolton in the School of Environmental Science and Management at Southern Cross University and casual planter, Madeleine Fletcher, planting the second lot of 300,000 paperbark or Melaleuca quinquenervia trees at the West Byron Bay Sewage Treatment Plant.
Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.