The Guardian May 3, 2000


Action saves Port Adelaide River

by David Kirner

Residents in the predominately working class city of Port Adelaide have won 
a second major environmental and public health victory in South Australia 
with this month's announcement by the Olsen Government of zero sewage 
effluent discharge into the Port Adelaide River by 2002.

Residents acted en masse and through their community, indigenous and 
environmental groups, local politicians and councillors.

The Port Adelaide River is South Australia's largest estuary and home to a 
200-strong dolphin pod and forms part of an interlinked major breeding 
ground for sea life, including the King George Whiting and Blue Swimmer 
Crab.

It is also a major working class recreational asset and home to the Pelican 
and Dolphin Dreaming of the Kaurna people.

The campaign to stop the discharge and subsequent victory crossed party and 
political boundaries, in the context of the current water resource problems 
affecting the Murray River, and highlighted the most appropriate manner of 
dealing with water re-use in the country's driest state, South Australia.

The decision comes after 12 months of community action, involving public 
protests, lobbying, marches and the blockading of transport corridors and 
construction sites.

Construction, engineering and maintenance jobs will be created by the 
decision.

Sewage treatment

The zero discharge decision will cost $100 million and will transfer all 
sewage effluent and waste water by pipeline to sewage treatment works at 
Bolivar, north of Port Adelaide. The treatment works project will be 
completed by 2002.

The funds will be spent on the pipeline and on the construction of new 
desalination and tertiary treatment plants. Thirty percent of the 
wastewater treated will be used in the Virginia market gardens regions, 
north of Bolivar.

However, local community and environment groups, while solidly supporting 
the initiatives, are calling for new technologies or wetland developments 
to re-use the 70 percent of excess water rather than divert it back into 
the Barker Inlet, in Gulf St Vincent.

For over 30 years 117 million litres of treated effluent has flowed into 
the river at Ethelton (pictured) and has gradually destroyed pristine 
swimming areas and left a river bed made up of 50 percent of human 
excrement.

The campaign to stop the discharge became a central focus of the Pelican 
Point protests last year. The sewage effluent was labelled as one of the 
toxic trifecta; along with the power station and proposed ship-breaking 
yard.

Last year the Government announced that the ship-breaking yard would not be 
supported. 

However, the power station has remained in construction and is expected to 
be completed in November this year.

The Pelican Point picket line closed last month and residents have now 
opened an Environment Centre in the heart of Port Adelaide to continue 
community campaigns against environmental pollution and risks to public 
health.

Community action for Pelican Point has been renamed Community Action for 
Port and Peninsula.

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