Anger over Warrimoo pump out subsidy cost-cutting

Mayor Mark Greenhill doesn’t mince words when he talks about the mucky situation a couple of his Warrimoo constituents have found themselves in.

“It’s clearly bullshit,” he said.

Clr Greenhill said Emma and Chris Abrahams, who live in Rickard Road across from Warrimoo Oval, are set to gradually lose a sewage pump-out subsidy from the state government from next July. The couple is “smack bang in the middle” of a relatively new sewered sub-division on one side and Wycliffe Christian School (also on the sewer) on the other. And the young couple can even see a Sydney Water pumping station from their backyard, he said.

“These people were promised the continuation of the payment. Then connection. This family lives a few metres away from the sewer station. It would be easy to connect them,” Clr Greenhill said.

An apprentice hairdresser, Emma Abrahams said she and her truck driver husband “don’t know how we will pay for it”. Seventy-two Mountains homes not on the sewer system currently enjoy the subsidy which sees them pay about $600 a year for pump out costs instead of the proposed $4900 phased in by 2016.

“I’ve tried to call [Sydney Water] a few times for help,” said Mrs Abrahams, who believes she is one of only three households in the street without the sewer. 

“We wouldn’t have bought here [if it was being removed].”

Under the Sydney Water plan the subsidy will be scrapped, with pump out costs shifting from the state government to Blue Mountains ratepayers by 2016.

Last month Clr Romola Hollywood and other Labor politicians in the Mountains gathered more than 300 names in a petition to keep the septic pump out scheme subsidy.  It has since been tabled in State Parliament.

“It doesn’t make sense that one household is connected to the sewer, when their neighbours are faced with paying around $5000 per year to pump out their waste. The government needs to finish the job of connecting these residents to the sewer,” Clr Hollywood said.

A letter unearthed by a Wentworth Falls resident in September, indicating a promise by the then Liberal government to connect the properties to the sewer, with the subsidy tiding them over until it was done, had been “ignored” by the current Liberal State Government, Clr Greenhill said. Clr Greenhill said since publishing the letter from the former minister, council expected the debate would end.

Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage has previously said the subsidy was “only ever intended as a temporary measure” and 14,000 properties had now been sewered at a cost of $300 million.

Sydney Water spokeswoman Emma Whale said Sydney Water’s legal advice was that the letters did not constitute a commitment by Sydney Water to provide a wastewater service or an ongoing subsidy to customers, adding “customers who are near our wastewater system in the Blue Mountains can submit a minor extension application”. 

She said customers could email bluemountains@sydneywater.com.au for advice.

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