Sewer work on the nose

Mountains residents on sewage pump-out systems face costs of up to $100,000 each to connect to the sewerage system.

Clr Romola Hollywood and ALP candidate for the Mountains Trish Doyle with Linden student Donna Gummidge, her children Amelia and Max, and Gavin the dog on top of their septic tank.

Clr Romola Hollywood and ALP candidate for the Mountains Trish Doyle with Linden student Donna Gummidge, her children Amelia and Max, and Gavin the dog on top of their septic tank.

Sydney Water sent letters to the affected home-owners earlier this month, quoting tens of thousands of dollars for what it describes as a “minor service extension charge” which would extend the existing sewer line to their houses. 

Donna Gummidge, a mother of two and university student from Linden, was quoted $75,000 for the “minor extension” plus the possibility of another $15,000 for a plumber to install a tank and pump.

Ms Gummidge said she had no chance of finding that amount of money.

“I’m still in a bit of shock. I just feel like they have abandoned us and walked away.”

Ms Gummidge said she feared she may have to move.

“We are a single income household. We certainly don’t have $90,000 up our sleeves to pay for a sewer connection. I also do not have the funds to be paying up to $5000 a year for pump-out. I can’t believe I might have to lose my home because Sydney Water hasn’t honoured their commitment.”

Pump-out costs will rise steeply when Sydney Water withdraws its subsidy at the end of June.

Clr Romola Hollywood, who, with ALP candidate Trish Doyle, has been working with the residents to find a solution, said the subsidy should remain until Sydney Water has connected all the remaining households.

“The subsidy was put in place to protect the environment and until Sydney Water had finished the job. And it hasn’t finished.”

Ms Doyle said that a petition with 320 signatures supporting the residents had already been tabled in NSW Parliament and further petitions had attracted even more support.

She also said that in light of the “shenanigans around Australian Water Holdings” at ICAC hearings, which included allegations that Sydney Water paid AWH hundreds of thousands for such unrelated expenses as lunches and political donations, she believed Sydney Water should “really have a rethink” about this small group of affected residents.

“We aren’t looking at 700 houses here. We have 72 properties left to connect, there must be a way.”

Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage said she had spoken with some of the affected residents recently and was “urgently” seeking a meeting with the new Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Humphries, to convey their concerns.

“The decision has previously been made to cease this subsidy,” she said. “What I am seeking to do now is ensure there is appropriate support available to assist affected residents through this transition period.”

A spokesman for Sydney Water said a number of residents had expressed interest in connecting to the wastewater system. 

“If enough residents are interested, we will further investigate the feasibility and detailed costs of this option and work with residents.”

He said the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal sets the way the charges are calculated.

The Gazette asked whether residents might be offered a reduced rate, particularly in light of the ICAC allegations of Sydney Water handing over huge sums of money for limousines, lunches and the like.  The response was: “As we’ve said previously, IPART determines the way charges for minor service extensions are calculated.”

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