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Publications archive - Waste and recycling

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

On-farm Composting of Municipal and Commercial Organics as an Environmentally and Socially SustainableResource Recovery Scheme for Rural Communities

June 2003,
Environment Australia


13 Advanced Biological Treatment of Septic Sludge from Residential Properties

Many rural and regional communities in Queensland as well as a high proportion of residential blocks in the urban fringe are unsewered. Septic tanks, in combination with underground effluent trenches, are commonly used in such cases for on-site wastewater treatment and disposal. However, sludge that accumulates in the septic tank has to be removed regularly to ensure continued proper functioning of the septic wastewater treatment system.

Sludge that is collected from residential septic tanks is typically disposed of in soil trenches or at landfill sites. This practice however can have serious negative environmental effects, particularly ground water pollution. This problem became evident over the last few years in the Eastern Downs region. The disposal of septic waste at the Crows Nest landfill had to be stopped when it became evident that leachate from the landfill threatened Toowoomba's water supply and Clifton Shire Council observed a marked improvement in groundwater quality after disposal of septic waste was stopped at its landfill site. Septic waste from both shires is now delivered to Toowoomba's wastewater treatment plant. This disposal option resulted in a considerable increase in service charges residents have to pay to have their septic tank emptied, and resulted in some disquiet in the community.

These events, which caused significant problems for Crows Nest Shire coincided with the development phase of the on-farm composting project. Council had asked whether this aspect of rural/regional waste management could be included in the project. This was agreed to and the sub-project 'Advanced Biological Treatment of Septic Sludge Collected from Rural Residential Properties' was incorporated into the overall project plan. The industrial partner was Town & Country Septic Services whose owner was very interested to find an alternative to disposing of residential septic waste at Toowoomba's wastewater treatment plant, which would allow him to reduce service charges to his clients.

However, with hindsight it seems that this sub-project was not 'under a good star'. It was plagued by unfortunate, even tragic incidences and situations and unfortunately relatively little progress was made during the entire project period. Occurrence and outcome of such events were beyond the control of the project manager. A brief chronological overview of developments within this sub-project is provided below.

The project proposal and a project summary for Cambooya Shire Council that addressed mainly licensing issues, risk management aspects and proposed financial and contractual arrangements are provided in Appendix V.