The irony of Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs still pumping untreated sewage into the Pacific Ocean is rich indeed! Yup, it’s true: three ‘outfalls’ are still dropping raw sewage from the cliffs behind Vaucluse and Diamond Bay into the ocean near South Head. The arse end of ex PM Turnbull’s Federal seat of Wentworth?
The resulting visible plumes of ‘brown fuzz’ on the surface are a cocktail of algae, high bacteria count, colonies of stinging jellyfish known as hydroids, and represent a high environmental risk. The ocean floor there is piling up with toilet paper, sanitary products, wet wipes and plastics.
Twice I have swum through this area in the Bondi to Watsons Bay ocean swim. Doubly dumb, heroic and in a duo each time to share the 10km course. Maybe my immunity came from decades of surf swimming in the dodgy water of eastern Sydney beaches before the 1990-92 Deep Ocean Outfalls, which started carrying primary-treated sewage about 3 km out on the ocean floor (where it’s feasted on by marine life). In those not-so-good old days we sometimes swam in dun-coloured water with a smattering of unsanitary floaty objects.
But, there is good news on the horizon. The NSW government is finally dealing with these ‘legacy’ ocean sewer pipes from 1916, 1932 & 1936. Our Gladys is right on to it, only twenty years after it was first raised, announcing a $86m project to re-direct the sewage to the Bondi Waste Water Treatment Plant by 2020. Those feasting sewer fish are in for some upper-class treats!