Quentin Rider checks out the effluent that is turning into “A-plus” grade water.
Quentin Rider checks out the effluent that is turning into “A-plus” grade water. Toni Mcrae

From your toilet to your tap

HERVEY Bay is shaping up to become flushed with the success of becoming Australia’s first city to turn effluent into drinking water.

A new $36 million wastewater treatment plant at Nikenbah will launch the project – providing the Federal Government comes good with just under $10 million.

“We’re hopeful,” Wide Bay Water Corporation’s David Wiskar said yesterday. “The Howard government committed to us as an election promise they would give us the money so now we’re negotiating with the Rudd government.

“The idea is to add this effluent-to-drinking water process to be used in times, for instance, of bad drought. It would become a supplementary water source here in times of crisis.

“As of now our treated water is A-plus. With the government money and a few more steps it will need to go to A-plus-plus before people can actually drink it. But it’s certainly an innovation we will be able to now work on for the future.”

The Nikenbah plant, which services the western side of the Bay from a sprawling 231ha property at the end of Piggford Lane, has been in business for three weeks – thanks largely to the mothering eye of Wide Bay Water’s senior process engineer Quentin Rider.

Project delivery manager Trevor Dean and electrics expert Tim Mahony have also been spearheading the project, which was 50 per cent funded by the State Government.

Mr Rider said that if Nikenbah did go the effluent-into-water route it would “be impossible” for anything to go wrong because of the thousands of fail-safe items already built into the system.

“We’re still in commission,” Mr Rider said, “but we are running full on. Having worked on this project from day one in 2006 I kind of so feel like the baby has been born.”

Nikenbah is some super baby. It has the capacity of treating effluent from 10,000 homes or 21,000 people and does that at a rate of 4.8 ML/d average dry weather flow.

But what makes it an Australian leader is that it uses membrane bioreactor and biological nutrient removal technology together.

“The Environmental Protection Agency didn’t ask us to do this,” Mr Wiskar said. “We chose to put Hervey Bay in a very strong position in an uncertain water future.”

Mr Rider said the plant would be able to be expanded to service 30,000 homes and is fed from the pump station behind Eli Waters shopping centre, which in turn is fed by a network sprouting from many of the 89 little pump stations scattered across the city.

“The new plant is taking the load of the Eli Waters plant, which was designed in the early part of last century and has had about $20 million of ratepayers’ money poured into it. So we’ll use the lightened load to do maintenance on Eli Waters. We’ll give it a bit of R and R.”

The new plant is landlocked so no treated effluent goes into aquatic sites. It is used by surrounding farmers and nurseries.

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