At the Franklin River Reserve, the South Gippsland Shire Council recently had to excavate a trench above the seepage drains from the toilet block septic tanks because of puddles of liquid effluent on the surface of the ground.
They have filled the trench with mulch to soak up the effluent and planted lilies in it to make a wetland.
This action has satisfied the EPA which was concerned the effluent could pollute the river and endanger the platypus.
However, the EPA has advised the council to either regularly pump out the septic tank, or limit the usage of the toilets.
The council has opted for the former and has now arranged to empty the septic tank every 10 days at a cost of approximately $400 each time.
The alternative would have been to enforce the council’s own local law as advertised at the reserve that camping is only allowed for vans with their own toilet facilities for a maximum stay of 48 hours.
The local laws officer said that he and his three staff are too busy to go to the Franklin River!
In addition to the cost of emptying the septic tank is the cost of providing water to the toilets.
This necessitates a council employee carrying a pump to the river, connecting it to a pipe in the bank and then waiting an hour or two for the tank to fill before disconnecting the pump and taking it away.
Doing this was relatively cheap while the reserve was being mown but now has to be done as a standalone job between mowings.
On Easter Sunday there were 85 vehicles in the reserve and only six had toilets.
This equates to about 190 people which at five flushes per day of four litres is 3800 litres.
The septic tank holds 3200 litres so between emptying, there is an enormous amount of water which has to be absorbed by the soil and mulch and I believe this must pose a health hazard.
The seepage pipes covered with mulch are located between the toilets and the barbecue shelter making it a preferred location for campers.
I have twice observed vehicles parked so they can alight onto the soft mulch plus campers with children playing in the mulch as shown in the attached photo.
This is not only a health risk but a potential liability for the council! At the very least this mulch should be fenced off – more cost to ratepayers!
David Bligh, Toora.
Free camping poses risks