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Cronulla's beaches are amongst the most polluted in Sydney. (Boat Harbour often the worst.) This is due primarily to the presence of the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant which discharges effluent from a clifftop outlet at Potter Point. The existing plant was capable of applying secondary treatment only to sewage before it was then discharged into the ocean. According to Council's State of the Environment Report, up to 82 ML/day is discharged into the ocean off Kurnell.

In February 1999, work began to upgrade the plant, in order to improve the quality of effluent discharged at Potter Point (below). The cost of the upgrade was $90 million and the work was completed in April 2001.

Air vents at Potter Point sewage outlet
Photo: Daphne Salt
As a result of the upgrade, sewage entering the plant is now tertiary treated and disinfected to non-potable re-use standard. As part of the upgrade work, a pocket of littoral rainforest on the site was preserved, alternative habitat created for the Green and Golden Bell Frog and bush regeneration undertaken to remove weeds and to plant native species. The area around the outfall at Potter Point has been degraded for many years and some rehabilitation has taken place as part of the upgrade. An improved access road and car park were completed in September 2000.

The upgrade work was undertaken by the Bovis Lend Lease Corporation who will now operate the Plant for 2 years after completion. As well as undertaking work on the upgrade, Lend Lease staff have participated in local community projects such as the Clean Up of Captain Cook Drive.

Despite the fact that the upgrade will have long lasting environmental benefits, there have been a number of concerns during the project. In April 2000, work was halted on the new pipeline when it was revealed that sections of Kurnell Dune Forest had been cleared. Kurnell Dune Forest has been listed as an Endangered Ecological Community under the Threatened Species Conservation Act. (Click here for more details). During the excavation for the pipeline, a previously unknown Aboriginal midden site was also uncovered. As a result work was halted and the site surveyed and the details recorded. In recognition of the find a plaque was erected and unveiled by NSW DUAP Minister Andrew Refshauge and local Aboriginal representatives in May 2001.

The decisions regarding the management of the Green and Golden Bell Frog on the site were also a subject of some debate. (Click here for more details)

Machinery excavating for the pipeline
Photo: Daphne Salt
Concerns were also raised at the reported clearing of significant native vegetation for the erection of a fence, towards the end of the project.

The capacity has also been an issue. According to estimates the newly upgraded plant will need to be expanded in less than 10 years. This is due primarily to the rapidly rising Sutherland Shire population, which is predicted to be 224,000 by 2010, and to the increase in sewage flows resulting from the connecting of new suburbs such as Bundeena-Maianbar.

For more information on the upgrade visit the Sydney Water website.
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