Page 3301 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 17 September 2013

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Championships. Gary Summerell was a freelance Auslan interpreter and volunteered his time for this event. Sadly, Gary passed away unexpectedly a few days ago at only 41 years of age, just two weeks after he volunteered his time at the deaf netball championships. I would like to pass on my condolences to his friends and family and pay tribute to the work he did for the deaf community over a number of years.

Water—Lower Molonglo

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (5.15): I am very proud of the people of my electorate and the essential services located in Ginninderra serving all Canberrans. Tonight I want to highlight a service we all use, a service that is crucial to any city and a service we can all be proud of, as it is performed to a higher standard than in any other Australian capital city. It is also one of the biggest employers in west Belconnen with around 70 people involved in the 24-hour-a-day operations of ACTEW Water’s Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre.

The centre is in one of the prettiest parts of the ACT above the confluence of the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers with beautiful views across to the Brindabellas. It is not far from the lowest spot in the ACT where the Murrumbidgee River crosses the New South Wales border. The fall in height allows the two sewer mains from Belconnen and south Canberra that meet at the centre to be gravity fed for most of the system. Micro-organisms that help breakdown the sludge are just one of the multiple processes that ensure the clear, treated water discharged to the Molonglo does not harm the rivers downstream in the Murray Darling basin. Solids are carefully incinerated at the centre to produce Agri-Ash, a soil conditioner for farmers distributed by a company based in Gunning.

When constructed in 1978 the centre attracted water treatment engineers from around the world to see its innovations. In the 1970s Australia was undergoing a sewerage revolution, initiated by the Whitlam government elected on an urban renewal mandate to connect every home in every Australian capital city to sewerage. It was the broadband of its time. Neville Wran once praised Whitlam:

It was said of Caesar Augustus that he found Rome of brick, and left it of marble. And of Whitlam I say, he found Brisbane unsewered and left it fully flushed.

Together Canberra and Queanbeyan’s population make up a fifth of the people living in the Murray-Darling basin. As Australia’s largest inland city Canberra has a special responsibility that the treated water we feed back into the Murray-Darling basin does no damage. Our waste is treated to a much higher standard than in the state capital cities which discharge treated sewerage into the seas to disperse. Griffin’s original sewerage scheme of collection tanks dispersed around the city discharging it into the lake was rejected for a centralised plant at Weston allowing for more treatment of the city’s waste.

Our sewerage system still incorporates the heritage-listed main outfall sewer built between 1915 and 1926 from the Parliamentary Triangle to the old treatment plant at Weston Creek. Engineers Australia’s wonderful centennial gift, the 330 page book A Century of Canberra Engineering, observes that several parliamentary hearings and a royal commission affected the stop-start construction of the then controversial sewer.

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