Sewage spill sparks environmental, health concerns


A photo from the scene of a sewage spill at Flat Rock Creek, Willoughby
Image credit: Rob Stevens

Locals have expressed concern for the environmental and health implications of a significant sewage leak in Flat Rock Reserve, which is expected to take two weeks to clear.

A blocked pipe on Dawson Street in Willoughby is causing untreated sewage to run into nearby Flat Rock Creek, sparking a major containment operation by Sydney Water.

A weir made of sandbags is currently being used in the creek to contain the sewage flow, with the State Government agency pumping the waste into another sewage line in Tunks Park.

Locals have been told to avoid the area over health risks and surrounding bush tracks have been closed.

News of the spill saw residents take to social media over the weekend, voicing concerns for the impact to the surrounding bushland environment and the health of locals.

“Kids… play netball in the gully along with thousands playing other sports, bush walkers and dog walkers not to mention the seven suburbs that back into it,” local Larissa Penn told North Shore Living.

“I’m very concerned there has been no COVID-19 health advice.”

“There [is] such a huge impact on wildlife that the creek supports that just isn’t taken seriously. Let’s look after our environment...” added fellow local Rob Stevens.

Flat Rock Gully is a known habitat for foraging powerful owls, swamp wallabies, lyrebirds and other native animals.

A Sydney Water spokesperson told North Shore Living the corporation has repair teams on site responding to the fault, with a bypass set up to protect the environment from overflow.

It is also following the advice of NSW Health, which says there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted via wastewater systems. 

“The safety of our community and the protection of the environment are our top priorities,” the spokesperson says.

“Our customer team is on site providing support and information for residents in the immediate area and the wider community and will continue to provide regular updates.” 

Willoughby City Council says it is still safe to visit the Willoughby Leisure Centre, Incinerator Art Space and Bicentennial Reserve and playground. 

While Sydney Water says investigations into the cause of the blockage are still ongoing, it is thought the incident may have been caused by works on a minor sewer line last week, which resulted in the main sewer line in Dawson Street becoming blocked.

Recent heavy rainfall has increased the volume of water in the wastewater network, making blockages more likely.

Stephanie Aikins

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