Community calls for sustainable options to handle airport water


Over 300 people who attended a public information session held on Tuesday night (10 Sept) in Maroochydore heard more detail around the proposal by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council to release ponded water from the Sunshine Coast Airport via a pipeline to the ocean at Marcoola.

Presentations by Ross Ullman, Project Director of the Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion Project and Andrew Connor, Executive Director, Compliance from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) explained the considerations relating to the relatively recent national framework for the management and treatment of the persistent chemical PFAS* which is found in many everyday items and situations.  Under the applicable national guidelines and relevant Queensland environmental regulations, the water ponded on the airport site is considered to contain low levels of PFAS. Councillor Jason O’Pray then joined the panel which fielded more than forty questions from the highly engaged and respectful audience.

Meeting organisers the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, Sunshine Coast Surfrider Foundation, Mudjimba Beach Boardriders, OSCAR, Coolum and North Shore Coast Care and the Marcoola Community Group, issue the following joint statement.

Many of the attendees understood the described levels of PFAS in the water to be released were extremely low under the current guidelines at an average of 4 parts per trillion and that DES is  exercising its role as the State’s environmental regulator by taking a cautious approach to its release.  

However, the prevailing sentiment of the audience, which is shared by the organisers, is that ocean discharge is not a smart, innovative nor sustainable way to deal with the ponded water and that options need to be properly and transparently costed and consulted on before committing to the ocean pipeline.

It s also considered that these prevailing dry conditions warrant alternative and appropriate land based applications using the treated water, such as irrigation, being thoroughly and openly investigated. Such options need not impede the intended progress of the new runway construction.

The unnecessarily damaged tourism brand of the Sunshine Coast and community confidence, largely due to the secrecy surrounding the Council’s decision to adopt this particular solution and the mishandling of the communication about the proposal, could potentially be redeemed if a more sustainable approach was adopted.

We also note that, although the statement has been made in Council’s information sheets and restated again by Ross Ullman at the meeting that the proposed pipeline will be removed once the construction of the new runway has been completed (expected to be the end of 2020), doubt remains this will in fact be the case.

Our organisations are continuing to work closely with the Airport Expansion Project Team, DES, the  Sunshine Coast Regional Council and the community to ensure a more favourable option or suite of options are adopted than what is currently proposed.  

We sincerely thank the community for their attendance and participation at the meeting and acknowledge interested community members who were unable to attend due to unfortunate circumstances relating to the fires.  

*PFAS: Per-or poly-fluroalkyl substances