In order for Muswellbrook Shire Council to receive and treat sewerage wastes it must hold an Environment Protection Licence from the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) as set out in Section 55 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. DECC reviews Council’s licence at least every 5 years.
Such licences form part of a public record, and can be accessed by interested members of the public by following the link to http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/licensing. Muswellbrook Shire Council currently holds Licence Numbers 1593 for Muswellbrook sewerage and 5059 for the system at Denman. These licences cover the whole sewerage system in each town, not just the treatment plant.
These licences require Council to send DECC an Annual Return, comprising a Statement of Compliance and a summary of the results of any monitoring required by the licence. The return also includes the recording of pollution complaints and an annual system performance report.
The objectives of this licensing scheme are to:
- prevent as far as practicable sewage overflows and sewage treatment plant bypasses;
- ensure proper and efficient management of the system to minimise harm to the environment and public health; and
- ensure practical measures are taken to protect the environment and public health from sewage overflows and sewage treatment plant effluent.
The licences require Council to:
- keep monitoring records,
- monitor concentration of any pollutants discharged,
- use specific testing methods to ensure compliance with set concentration limits,
- record pollution complaints,
- maintain a telephone complaints line
- record any sewage treatment plant bypasses,
- monitor biosolids,
- record overflows
Part 9.5 of the Act requires DECC to keep a public register of details and decisions of the EPA in relation to:
- licence applications
- licence conditions and variations
- statements of compliance
- load based licensing information
- load reduction agreements
Under s320 of the Act, an application can be made to DECC for access to monitoring data which has been submitted to DECC by licensees.