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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6714

Mr RANDALL (12:52 PM) —Today I want to raise an outrageous situation faced by the residents of Golf View Estate in Serpentine, in my electorate, that has homeowners at their wits’ end. In accordance with the recommendations by the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale and the Department of Health, in 2006 Adam and Natalie Moss purchased an Ecomax 375 septic system for their new home at 108 Downs Court. Its installation on April 2006 marked the beginning of a distressing, costly and uphill battle for the Moss family that continues today. For a raft of reasons, predominantly a lack of drainage, the Ecomax system has consistently failed. The Moss’ backyard at times is swimming in sewage, ridden with algae, pungent with the stench of raw sewage and posing grave health risks to the family. If you think this is a burden, just add in that the shire is imposing huge fines for beaches of the Health Act.

What was meant to be an idyllic country lifestyle for the Moss family has turned out to be an absolute nightmare. Natalie sought my intervention when the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale issued her with a health notice. Subsequently, the shire sought to impose an alternative septic system on the property and send Natalie the bill. Natalie hit a dead end with the Wallis Group, the providers of the Ecomax system, and was running out of options. The Moss family have spent a sizable sum, which they can ill afford, repairing the system, sealing the tank, purchasing sand and all the while facing $250 daily fines from the shire.

Following my representations, the Wallis Group have shown a willingness—I am pleased to say—to work through the issues with Natalie, agreeing to honour the terms of the warranty on the septic system and to relocate and replace the system. The replacement was to be in accordance with the advice for an independent engineer’s report that I organised to make sure that the tank could cope with the high watertable and limited drainage. A sand pad of 1.8 metres was recommended to support the cells and pads and to put as much space between the groundwater and the sewage as possible. This required a delivery of 20 truck loads of sand at very short notice, for which I wholeheartedly thank the company, WA Limestone. However, this week’s scheduled replacement has not gone according to plan. Yesterday, Simon Wallis informed me that it would be impossible for the contractors to complete the job in the immediate future because, in his words:

The lack of drainage from the site means that machinery is unable to move on the site, let alone excavate. Continuing to try to complete this process without having adequate drainage will destroy Natalie’s yard and I believe prove unsuccessful.

Despite questions about the appropriateness of the equipment brought on site to complete the job, trying to build the sand pad proved impossible. A huge amount of sand was needed to simply build a running mat for the bobcat, and the bobcat got repeatedly bogged. This was not solely the result of huge downpours in Perth but because the water is so close to the surface that if there is any pressure on the ground it just subsides into sludge.

Where does this leave Natalie and Adam? Wallis Group said they had every intention of ‘completing this installation once the drainage issues have been addressed and the site is able to support movement of machinery and general excavation’. But obviously this requires some serious action by the shire to address the drainage issues in the subdivision.

Mr and Mrs Moss’s experience is not isolated. Homes throughout the subdivision have reported failing Ecomax systems. Another constituent contacted my office for assistance as recently as yesterday. The reality is that the septic systems are struggling to cope with the water table of the Golf View Estate. Obvious tension between the Serpentine Jarrahdale Shire and the Wallis Group is unhelpful and counterproductive to a resolution. As Ecomax is a septic system recommended by the Department of Health, Wallis Group and the shire are required to have dealings, but my constituents are caught in the middle of a Mexican stand-off and an old-fashioned blame game over the effectiveness of the system and the shire’s drainage liability.

Having been on site, I have seen the demarcation line firsthand. The drainage channel on the golf course runs along the Moss’s southern fence line. Overflow has nowhere to go except onto the Moss’s property. The high-level water means the sewage has no room to evaporate; it mixes with the groundwater and rises to the surface. The Moss’s backyard is constantly damp, the ground is soft and the Mosses have trouble growing plants because the roots get too damp. If the core problem is the adequacy of the drainage infrastructure throughout the estate, the shire must take its share of the responsibility. Its reluctance to do so is not surprising.

The question is whether the original drainage plans, or lack thereof, should have been approved by the shire in the first place. Were they properly considered in light of the rising groundwater? Were they independently assessed considering the shire was profiting from the sales after taking over this development themselves? These are legitimate questions. The independent report that I mentioned earlier reinforces the problem. It says:

… During periods of prolonged rainfall the area may be inundated for up to several days … The problem is exacerbated by additional flow of the drainage from the adjacent Golf Course to the south into the property. There exists a drain along the common boundary of Lot 108 and the Golf Course which if deepened and upgraded would do a great deal to resolve the poor drainage situation. It is within the power of the local authorities to do this as the land is under their control and at least part of the problem appears to be caused by flows of water from that land.

(Time expired)

Question agreed to.