Legislative Council Thursday 21 September 2017
Ms FORREST question to ACTING LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
With regard to recent demands made by TasWater to many small business in north-west Tasmania regarding upgrades and enhancements to the treatment of trade waste -
(1) Are the most recent trade waste compliance requests or demands being made related to or based on -
(a) regulatory change? If so -
(i) What changes have occurred?
(ii) To which regulations?
(iii) Was a regulatory impact statement undertaken?
(b) TasWater policy -
(i) If so, has the Government made any request to TasWater to change its trade waste policy, either before or since the recent increase in compliance requests or demands?
(c) A requirement by any other body, including the Environment Protection Authority (EPA)?
(2) Is the Government aware of what led to this increase in compliance requests and/or demands?
(3) Has the Government had any discussions with the owners of TasWater or the board or management regarding the significant financial imposts being imposed on small business? If so, what was the outcome of these discussions?
Mr President, I thank the member for Murchison for her question. The answers are -
(1) There have been no changes to any part of the regulatory framework since the Economic Regulator approval of TasWater's current trade waste policy in 2015 price determination. TasWater relies on section 56V(1)(c) of the Water and Sewerage Industry Act 2008 to require an owner or occupier of land on which a business is operating to install a pre treatment device to ensure trade waste discharged to the sewer is compliant with the exclusions and limits prescribed by the Water and Sewerage Industry (General) Regulations 2009.
TasWater has issued guidelines that explain what pre-treatment solutions will be accepted for each type of business, deemed to satisfy and what alternative devices could be included in a tailored performance solution.
What we have been made aware of through the representations and correspondence the Government has received from businesses is that TasWater is issuing notices demanding businesses install deemed to satisfy pre-treatment solutions. They are not offering those businesses the option of designing an alternative performance solution that would be better suited to the specific characteristics of the business and trade waste produced at a lower cost.
TasWater's trade waste policy provides for flexibility in finding solutions for the pre treatment of trade waste. However, there appears to be a reluctance by TasWater to exercise this flexibility.
The Government has called on TasWater to reconsider the implementation of its policies and engage with business owners to find solutions that are achievable, cost effective and lawful.
The Urban Water Policy Unit of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment advises the Minister for Primary Industries and Water on policies related to the regulation of the water and sewerage industry. The minister is responsible for bringing the regulations, including setting the sewer acceptance limits. These inclusions and limits have not changed since the regulations were made in 2009.
The Environment Protection Authority regulates the environmental impacts of the water and sewerage industry. It is important to note that the EPA is concerned with the discharge of treated sewage from a wastewater treatment plant, not the carriage of the untreated liquid waste through the reticulated sewerage system.
(2) The Government is not aware of any reasons for the increase in trade waste compliance demands by TasWater.
(3) The Government has publicly called upon TasWater to put a halt to its practice of making unreasonable and inflexible demands on businesses and immediately review its practices. The issue appears to be affecting low-to-medium risk trade waste consumers that are required to pre-treat waste before it can be accepted to the sewer.
These customers are typically small businesses. The Government's call for TasWater to halt its current program is not a call for businesses to discharge untreated water to the sewer. It is a call for TasWater to discontinue its narrowly focused approach, use a full range of options in the current trade waste policy and allow businesses to propose more cost-effective solutions to meet their trade waste discharge compliance requirements.
TasWater responded by accusing the Government of forcing TasWater and trade waste customers to break the law, which is simply not the truth.