Power Water not saying what's in overflowing sewage


Perfume Creek (above), as it is known for its smell, sometimes containing partially treated sewage, flowing under the Stuart Highway and to Kilgariff. The new suburb (below) during the recent floods.
The Power Water Corporation (PWC) is not saying what is contained in the partially treated sewage that flowed from the government treatment ponds to the new Kilgariff suburb during the recent rains.
We asked PWC: –
• What bacteria were contained in the creek flow which emanated from the [sewage] ponds, and what was their concentration?
• Is that creek water drinkable?
• Can people safely swim in it?
• Can it be safely used for watering gardens?
• What amount of overflow water was handled by the pipeline to Kilgariff designed to take sewage water to seepage ponds near Kilgariff, to be later recovered for irrigation purposes?
A PWC spokesperson replied: “I forwarded your questions on to Health to address.”
We made the enquiry on January 20 and still do not have a response.
p2210-lake-Kilgariff-1The effluent got to the suburb still under construction after flowing under Ilparpa Road and the Stuart Highway, into St Mary’s Creek, past an Aboriginal training facility, a birthing centre, the racecourse and the Desert Knowledge Precinct.
In an earlier response, Assistant General Manager Water Services evaded some questions, but conceded that “a discharge of treated effluent occurred to the swamp area during the peak of the storm activity.
“This was an extreme event with over 200 mm falling in the catchment.”
We replied disagreeing with Mr Pudney, saying it was not an extreme event: a government spokesman had earlier described the falls a having a probability of occurring once every five years. (An extreme event is one that has a one in a hundred years probability.)
Says Mr Pudney: “The discharge is a very small component of what was caught in the Ilparpa catchment.
“The effluent was treated and diluted further by the extensive rainfall.
“The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency – another NT Government instrumentality] has been notified in accordance with licence conditions.
“Results of sampling indicate that the bacteriological measurements are well within those expected from any system following a rainfall flush on the catchment.”
NEWS: In what systems can those bacteria be expected following a rainfall flush?
PUDNEY: It should be noted that stormwater in flood situations has many natural contaminants and the diluted treated effluent has not resulted in significant elevation of these.
He also said PWC had invested over $15m in recent years to reduce the likelihood and extent of overflows “particularly through progressive expansion of the re-use plant and other operational improvements.
“The cost to carry out works to eliminate all discharge in extreme weather events is cost prohibitive and is not currently being pursued.”
RELATED READING: Alice Springs sewage plant dossier (compiled in October 1998) and google for a large number of other reports on this site about sewerage treatment.


  1. Perfume Creek, haha, I thought the local name for it was Shit Creek … Perfume is a more dignified name for it, I suppose.

  2. This is the Government yet again trying to cover up the dodgy works going ahead at Kilgariff. It’s a shame. I recall attending the public consulation process a few years ago and was actually thinking of moving out that way but after hearing all of this, who would?

  3. Results of sampling including bacteriological measurements, should be made publicly available upon relevant departmental web page, when received, so all interested parties may study them.
    Between receipt of results and their public release, even when particular dangers are still to be identified, a standard format alert public warning announcement should be quickly available; greater detail later in follow-up announcements.
    How public danger alerts occurred, whether created by public sewerage discharges or other causes, need be determined by enquiry, preferably public a enquiry.

  4. The water shown near the Stuart Highway has nothing to do with St Marys Creek water. It is from the rain and St Marys Creek runs way over the back of the new blocks.

  5. John is both right and wrong. The unnamed creek runs to the east of the current relatively small first stage of the “new slum”.
    However, if it’s ever completed, the creek will dissect the development, which I imagine is the point of the article.

  6. Regarding the potential dangers of the Sewerage Treatment Works proximity to Alice Springs, where spray irrigation is used, the potential health risk from aerosol spray drift should be evaluated.
    The proximity of the operation to the community needs further looking into. Everyone passing by and living nearby needs to be aware that spray drift can contain harmful bacteria and virus’s if inhaled or contacted (in cars, trains, bicycles, pedestrians) on the Stuart Highway and footpaths running past the facility.
    When weather conditions are adverse to spraying safely, such as SW/NW/W, winds are blowing or at night when drift settles.
    I would not be comfortable being anywhere near there. Under such circumstances, spraying should only occur when conditions are favourable i-e blowing away in the opposite direction to the community and testing shows there is no contamination in the spray.
    I doubt if it’s ever been tested!


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