Shit stirrers!

At this year’s Chopes event the WSL rolled out a new environmental awareness campaign. Glowing Glowing Gone was designed to bring attention to the plight of coral reefs in the world’s warming waters. According to the campaign certain types of coral, when in distress, will glow a dazzling array of colours before finally settling on deathly white. 

Competitors wore brightly couloured rash shirts. Video testimonials were presented from tour surfers on the importance of coral reefs to the wider ecosystem. Marine experts were interviewed during heats. 

But the optics of the campaign, to borrow a phrase from the Vietnam war, were not good. Next to the surfing action sat dozens of boats and personal watercraft vehicles, each spilling its own contents of diesel, two stroke and miscellaneous waste into the ocean. Then there was the three storey high judging tower, bolted directly into the coral reef. The entire armada transported there by fuel guzzling jumbo jets. 

The intention was right. But the execution, it’s fair to say, needed more work.

Politics and surfing have never sat easily together. Even though it’s an individual pursuit, surfing relies (mostly) on the ocean. It has been intrinsically linked with environmental awareness for as long as it’s existed. And now more than ever commercial brands, whether product manufacturers of the industry media they support, are expected to take ethical stands as consumers become more considered in their support. 

But as the channel at Teahupoo so perfectly illustrated, surfing has a heavy carbon footprint. It's propped up by an industry that, for the most part, puts profits before philanthropy and activism. 

And besides, it is just a sport. A pastime. A personal spiritual quest. Should it even be political?

In the late 1980s Sydney had a pollution problem. Despite being home to some of the most iconic tourist spots in the world, the coastal strip was under ongoing siege from harmful sewage outfall.

Tim Baker was editor of Tracks at the time, and also a recent émigré from the cold but clean waters of Phillip island.

“If you’d grown up surfing in Sydney the change would have been quite gradual, but I had come from Vicco where the ocean water quality was pristine. When I first moved to Sydney the ocean looked and felt and smelt different. It had smell and a fizz to it when waves broke that I hadn't encountered before."

That fizz was thanks to lax sewage treatment that would sift out only the largest of solids from wastewater and let everything else through. This was the era of the Bondi cigar, when surfers risked everything from ear infections to septicaemia just from entering the water.

Climate change didn’t yet exist, at least in popular imagination. ‘The Greenhouse effect’ had only recently entered the public lexicon. But Tracks magazine had a long history of environmental activism, and the situation in Sydney was getting out of hand. 

“There was a story around that time of a Dee Why surfer who died from septicaemia and the suspicion was he’d contracted it surfing with an open wound. It was a hot button issue,” said Baker. 

“Plus I felt like [the need to be politically active] was something I’d inherited from previous Tracks editors.” 

Baker and his team, including a young Andrew Kidman, decided to do something about it. 

“I was working at Tracks at the time and the cover was Tim’s idea,” says Kidman.

“He wanted to do a whole ocean pollution themed mag, and he said it would be pretty cool to do a gas mask cover photo to show how bad the situation was. So yeah, I pretty much said I could surf in one.” 

The plan was hatched. But getting the shot wasn’t easy. 

“I initially tried to do the photo with a hired World War II gas mask from the prop shop at six foot Winkipop, but I had never really surfed the place. I couldn’t see anything out of it, I was totally blind. I took the first wave and wiped out, and the whole thing filled up with water. I couldn’t get it off my head. I couldn't breathe. I fucken nearly drowned. I lost the mask, came in and said, what are we gonna do now?"

They didn’t let the minor setback of a near drowning slow them down. A newer, lighter gas mask was purchased. The eye holes were cut out so that Kidman could see properly, and the water had a place to drain.

Kidman worked with a couple of photographers over the coming weeks to get the shots, with varying levels of success. 

“Me and [legendary water photographer] Pete Crawford travelled for a couple days to try and get the shot. We travelled down the south coast and couldn’t get it. Sean Davey tried as well, he actually shot a really good photo of a re-entry, too.”

But they still didn’t have The One.  

“Then Peter rang me up one morning and said, 'Dee Why’s got these barrels. Come down'. It was just on the beachie at Dee Why and we literally had the photo in like two minutes.”

Tracks, October 1989. In one provocative image, editor Tim Baker, photographer Peter Crawford, and willing accomplice Andrew Kidman cut to the heart of the issue

With the shot in the bag Baker had the issue ready to go. But he did meet some resistance.

“There was some push back from the publishers, but not because of the politics. It was mainly just a commercial consideration: they would rather see an identifiable, big wave surfer on the cover.” 

“Our publisher Phillip Mason referred to our readers as spotty-nosed 15-year olds. These spotty-nosed 15-year olds wouldn't care about this type of thing. The little fuckers!’

But it wasn’t just spotty-nosed little fuckers that took notice. The picture went viral, at least in pre-internet terms. 

“It was picked up by Reuters and probably goes down in history as the most widely published surf photo of all time,” said Baker.

“It got media all over the world. It was being picked up by news agencies in different languages, so we weren’t even sure what they were saying. “

Crawford went on to win a swag of awards for the photo. Back at home the mainstream press took notice too. The day after the mag dropped Kidman took a call from the Sydney Morning Herald’s environment reporter.

“He was super serious, he’s like, 'Is this a piss take or what?' I said, yeah it’s a really serious issue. And he said, 'But it’s a stunt isn’t it? You guys don’t actually have to wear gas masks to go surfing?'"

“I just wouldn’t give it to him, I wouldn’t tell him it was. I didn’t want him to be able to put that line in the newspaper."

“I said to him, it’s not a stunt, it’s true, this is what you gotta do to go surfing these days ‘cos the ocean is that polluted.”  

The point was getting across.

A manifesto for civil disobedience written by ex-Tracks editor Kirk Willcox

But it wasn’t just the cover in isolation. An effective grassroots campaign led by former Tracks editor Kirk Wilcox out of Maroubra called STOP - Stop The Ocean Pollution- fronted the charge. Regular protests were held across Sydney. A concert at Bondi beach headlined by Midnight Oil drew hundreds of thousands. 

There was even a group called POOO - People Opposed to Ocean Outfalls - that would protest at government buildings with a giant model turd. 

All being led by surfers. Momentum was building.

But, as always, the government only took action when it started hurting their bottom line. 

“Probably the negative publicity around the two public beaches - Manly and Bondi - is what spurred them into action, said Baker. “Having an impact on tourism and tourist numbers, as well as them being well-to-do postcodes. They had to do something.”

In 1993 the treatment process was upgraded and the ocean outfall length was extended. Water quality improved out of sight. It was a resounding win for the movement.

Ian Cohen and the late Dennis Callinan, lions of the environmental movement

There are parallels in surf activism today. The Equinor campaign led by Sean Doherty has seen real impact, though the fight isn’t over. This website along with Coastalwatch and a handful of others take an active stance on issues affecting our coastlines. A storm appears to be brewing on the Sunshine coast that has shades of a mini-Adani. 

But taking a stand still ain’t easy.

“Print media [today] is under siege and they’re probably not thinking about lofty enviro or social agendas. Which is a shame,” says Baker. 

“Even back then there was always frustration that surfers weren’t walking the talk. And it’s truer now than ever.” 

“It’s hard for WSL to be terribly credible because their whole business model relies on people having massive carbon footprints to pursue their careers. I can’t see any way around that. It’s good they do something but I can’t see what they could do that would be meaningful.” 

The same goes for the industry at large. 

But some action is better than none. When asked if he had any regrets on taking a political stand for the shot, Kidman says, “Nah, no way. It was a good thing to do. As far as Tracks were concerned it probably wasn’t the best cover they ever did, but in terms of a statement that summed up what the mag had been in the past, it was perfect.” 

“Because Tracks was always an environmental magazine. If you go back and look at the history of Tracks,  it was always based on the environmental movement - looking after yourself, but also the planet. That’s what surfing is, and that’s what Tracks was reflecting.”



atticus's picture
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atticus Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 1:17pm

I read this and then saw a post by Sean Doherty about Gina Rinehart bankrolling climate sceptics and it made me think, was there anyone actually onside with ocean pollution, who maybe thought the cost of deepwater outfalls outweighed the benefits? I doubt you would've read about it in the surf magazines but in the wider public?

I think, in this case, surfers were fortunate to have a clear cut issue, not to take anything away from Tim Baker, but the waters weren't easily muddied.

heals's picture
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heals Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 1:31pm

It wasn't just Sydney, Newcastle had sewage issues with untreated crap being released at Burwood Beach Treatment Plant. MR and Brad Farmer used tennis balls to show which way the crap flowed from the outlet.

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Surf Ads Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 2:41pm

Yeah I was pretty young but have memories of it. It still stinks but I guess it's nothing compared to what it would have been like.

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Lanky Dean Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 7:29pm

Was Burwood actually closed to the public at one point?
Man the locals have always been really shitty at that one point ; )
Must be all those years of soaking it up.
Personally I feel the water quality at Burwood, merewether went way up when the put in the new ocean outfall. I just feel that the sand flow to Merewether point was altered.
Feel that the point broke way better in the 80s, might be wrong though. I was young , may have rose tinted glasses.

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abc-od Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 1:40pm

Underwater fusbal looks like fun.

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stunet Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 2:00pm

Surf Ads puts climate change in historical context - i.e still a fringe issue, yet to spill into public conciousness, fire up the culture warriors etc - but it's worth mentioning that in that issue Tim Baker delves into it writing about how climate change may effect surfers in the future. Thirty years ago!

Also from the issue:

Silas Ishmael Hickey is interviewed, the questions split 50/50 between his burgeoning art career and recent sex tape.
Nev Hyman makes subtle mention of shaping machines.
Surf shops are uniting against the manufacturers who they think are fingering them.
Surf photographers are uniting to demand more pay from the magazines.
Hoyo lists INXS as his favourite band.
Pottz and Gerr have a blue in France.
Kidman writes an excellent backpage piece about growing up.
And for $19.95 you can buy a 'Binovisor', a peaked cap with built in binoculars "giving you a close-up view of the action while keeping your hands free to hold food or drink."

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Surf Ads Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 2:24pm

Yeah Tim mentioned that they had a dedicated environment reporter at the time who actually wrote about the Greenhouse effect in that same issue.

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daisy duke kaha... Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 3:07pm

I wonder what else you can hold while staring through binoculars at the beach?

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icandig Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 10:09pm

A good surfer; Silas Ishmael Hickey, if it is indeed one and the same. He was (is?) a loose, fluid, angular goofy foot with an awkward take off style. Lived and surfed around the surf coast area quite a long time ago. I know nothing of his sex tape but I do still have his denim jacket with leather shoulders. I found it in the bird rock car park over 30 years ago (it had a receipt in the pocket with his name on it) . I could probably have found him to give it back, but I didn't.....and I've worn it many times. It's still in great nick. Silas, if you are out there, I'm sorry.

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Nigeisblessed Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 2:58pm

It wasn't just the cities that had to fight the ocean poo battle. I grew up in sunny Woolgoolga and around the same time as this article we were protesting against Coffs council building an outfall off Emerald Beach. Bastards wanted to transport the crap from Coffs 24km North and pump it out off our beaches, the counselors assured us it was 100% clean, you could drink it but they weren't having it in their little patch of ocean.

Check the price tag on the cover $2:20!!

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Vic Local Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 3:37pm

The one thing that I really remember about the Ocean Outfall battle was how the local tourism and traders associations behaved.
They spent a good part of a decade denying the problems. Manly and Bondi fucking stank so bad during the 80s and everyone knew it. The deny deny deny position basically allowed governments to ignore ignore ignore the obvious problem.
Remind you of any current environmental issues?

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memlasurf Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 3:53pm

Yep remember surfing on the northern beaches in 1980 and saw toilet paper and chopped up turds floating by, apparently something had gone wrong and it got even worst at that time from memory. Was filthy coming from MP where the water was crystal clear....west of had an outfall problem too.

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indo-dreaming Friday, 11 Oct 2019 at 4:30pm

I remember in tracks etc in the early 90s Jet skis were the number one enemy.

Now look at things.

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ken.vincent Saturday, 12 Oct 2019 at 9:14am

13th Beach in Vic. " Stop the crap" campaign beat Sydney to the finish line by a few years I think. Local surfers had huge input into the protest. Every car at the beach had a sticker.

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Sandro gia Saturday, 12 Oct 2019 at 10:32am

The article says the surrige problem in the late 80,s,tracks cover 89,well although I live in the west,I used to buy tracks magazine religiously back in the very early 80,s which was just black and white no colour shots.
Well back around 82, 83, there were serious surrige problems on Sydney beaches and many articles in tracks,,not 1989.
All the best everyone.!

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Elliedog Saturday, 12 Oct 2019 at 12:26pm

Great read Stu. I remember the issue and still have a copy. I spent a lot of time in the Maroubra area around then. Man it was nasty!. I was told by my grandparents not to surf there. And I grew up in the Sth Newcastle area between two treatment works being Burwood and Belmont. Can’t say I noticed the pollution though but would hear about the Burwood issues coming out of Merewether. Can’t say I gave a shit at that young age which is quite embarrassing to think about now. We just were not educated about it. Imagine the impact Kelly Slater could have on these current issues if he’s was committed to this instead of building wave pools?.

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tubeshooter Saturday, 12 Oct 2019 at 9:19pm

The pollution at Burwood was as bad as you heard 'in the day' . But probably not as bad as some of the locals. Full comprehensive insurance on your car would've been a sound investment for those not familiar with local etiquette .

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Elliedog Saturday, 12 Oct 2019 at 12:28pm

Ah yeah..... HOY/INXS!!!. Got a laugh from that

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Sandro gia Saturday, 12 Oct 2019 at 1:40pm

Sewage,,, not surrige.

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truebluebasher Sunday, 13 Oct 2019 at 11:51am

AndyM (Top 5)

tbb flushes out the Shittiest Surf Spots in SEQ

(Pre Flush)
Airports hose > Greenfields douse > Treatment Plants flush chemicals into the Surf.
Surf Spots nearest these sites cop the most closures from pollution.

River Mouths are most toxic during drought and beaches are toxic during floods.

During dry spells the toxicity aerates creek banks, caking sludge to cloud in the water.

ECL's + Cyclones swamp the City's sewage to flood 4x normal volumes
Eg: Storm Events dictate [Beach Closed + 1/100 avoid town water] All Users.
[1/20yr = 2days] > [1/40yr = 3days] > [1/100 = 4days] > (Desal must supply SEQ)

GCCC Quote: "The term 'constituent' is used in preference to contaminants, pollutants or material, to avoid any negative or positive connotations.

Airport Services reveal PFAS test result sites recordings to their own liking.
PFAS - Don't swim/wash boards/Wetties/Boardies in groundwater near said sites.
Anywhere ocean side of East Coast Airports is soaking in PFAS. Avoid eating catch.

tbb will start the surf session on the WSR border flowing north

Tweed River has had many fish Kills & locals tie in a few to GCA PFAS runoffs.
River Mouths are hot beds for pollution so it's fair to assume toxin feeds into (WSR)

[Coolangatta Creek Closed]
2017 [No Swim /Fishing] GCA PFAS (10 x above recreational levels)
Adjacent Spear Pump sites 6 of 18 recorded higher than drinking level PFAS.
PFAS has been recorded from Kirra to Tugun.
2016/18 PFAS was recorded 1km out in thru the Desal Pipe..(Most complete doc!)

Currumbin Creek
2011/17 [No Swim] Rock Pools (Post Flood/Rains) Animal contamination
2013 [No Swim/Fishing] -RSL Carpark Raw Sewage spill (10,000 litres)
Sewage reads higher than chemicals in River Mouth (Rock Pools'-resembles sewage)
Meaning these incidents likely trawled thru the line-up (Where else could it go?)
Currumbin Estuary is year round #2 Oz Creek...Sups HQ.

Tallebudgera Ck.(Elanora Treatment Plant)
2000's Since plant was ageing it was leaking until recent hook up with Merrimac.
2015 Unsure how much waste still flows from Merrimac > Seaway Outfall.
Past Releases 23ML/day (Normal) +75ML/day (Storms)
Don't be fooled, study records more sewage in mouth on Normal Days than Storms.
Talle Ck-year round #1 Oz Creek...Tourist Camps + Locals Sups + Bridge Jump
Storms are said to Push Sewage further around onto beaches. (see: Burleigh Beach)
Here Authorities sign post Talle Ck says it's worse every other day.

Burleigh Point & Beach (Last North stop on GC WSR)
Storms often breached thru to Swamp isolating GC from Burleigh Heads/Ranges.
The ocean refuses to back down & Burleigh Beach is a port for Ocean's discharge.
Anything from Seaweed,Logs,Coins,Golf Balls,Goggles,Thongs wash into the corner,
1994/99 [Surfers getting ill near The Point Drain] Surfrider Foundation/Council.
Burleigh hooks to Talle Creek Pipes, meaning during flood shit floods back out storm pipes.

North Burleigh/Miami Headland
2010. [Fuel Leaking into the Surf] Rains flood fuel from Servos into Groundwater.

Broadbeach > Surfers > Mainbeach
2015 [Hi-Rise Rubble & Garbage contaminates the Beachfront] All too common!

Jetty/Seaway-TOS (Gold Coast Ocean Outfall) Discharge rate 94ML/day
GCCC sewage say 2015 + 2017 were 1 /20 + (2013 /19 ?) Floods release 4 x more.
Then outfall sewage easily douses both Scottish Prince MP + TOS > Moreton Bay MP.

Now recall the drought years & sludge then see how this plays out thru the seaway.
2013 / 2015 Sewage plumes discolour the Seaway...GCCC/UNI say it's not sewage?
Local dive legend Ian & rest of the city all know exactly what sort of shit that is!

Hinze Dam
2006 +2018 [ No Fishing ] Due to High Levels of mercury.

2017 [ Fish Kill ] Hundreds of Fish are washed of the seaway

Oct 9,2019 [ HINZE DAM - WARNING- CATCH & RELEASE ONLY ] Due to Mercury!

(Nerang River)
Carrara (Central Flood Plain run off)
1990's-Now constant fish Kills due to Floodplain development/Golf Chem Run off.
Choke points gather the toxin in man made lakes along with fish from the river.(Trap)
Year after year GCCC say it's only natural...Locals say 'Bullshit'.

Benowa (Flood Plain Weirs)
2009/2013 [ Keep Away] Flood channel pollution runoff killed off 160 Ducks

Bundall (Canals)
2011 [No swim/Fishing] GCCC 2 pipes burst 2 x 50,000 litres into Nerang River

Labrador (Broadwater)
2016 [Needles Warning] Article recaps 'monthly' Beach needle prick incidents

(Coomera River)
Oxenford -Park Lake
2018 [Fish Kill]100 fish dead in Lake

Monterey Keys Lake
2012 [ No Swimming ] Blue Green Algae (Not uncommon in winter?)

Hope Island (Canal)
2013 [ No Swim/Fishing ] Damaged main spewed out 1million litres of sewage

Goldie's rivers,creeks & groundwater wash toxin thru whole surf. (That's not good!)
Feel free to use civic study to highlight the cause. Handy for Oz wide data collective.
Studies into Tweed & North to Noosa...reveal Islands are most vulnerable to oil spills!

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theblacksheep Sunday, 13 Oct 2019 at 12:17am

Those Fluro rashies at Chopes we’re really hard to tell which surfer was which colour too. I don’t like environmental efforts getting in the way of my scorecard...

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bbbird Sunday, 13 Oct 2019 at 12:48pm

Left Sydney due to "surfers ear" infections....
Moved to the clean waters on the far north coast, NSW. Luxury!
Ballina Council & developers wanted to sell land from Ballina north to Lennox, so upgraded sewerage works for an extra 10000+ population (via State Govt $) & increase the sewerage discharge near the popular Boulders Beach.
Local community group (Cleans Seas Coalition) raised concerns of the release of sewerage into the ocean at night. The CSC spokesperson was taken to court by Council (ratepayers $ ) for slander based on interpretation of the word "surreptitious" outfall releases (ie. kept secret) in a letter printed in the local paper.
Inorganic compounds like micoplastics in the discharges & food chain is an issue of concern, especially if you eat fish.
In NSW, the EPA licenses conditions & guidelines for discharges into water.

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bbbird Sunday, 13 Oct 2019 at 1:03pm

At the same time (1980's).... after about ten years of research by a SC Uni academic, Lismore Council approved the use of composting toilets for rural residents, a policy later adopted by other progressive Councils.

With favourable condidtions, suitable bacteria can break down organics, even crude oil .

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garyg1412 Monday, 14 Oct 2019 at 7:58am

Ahhhh the old Bondi Cigars.

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Waldorf Salad Monday, 14 Oct 2019 at 9:04am
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Baron von Spatula Monday, 14 Oct 2019 at 11:51am

As a grom, we used to trek the Malabar Rifle Range from Maroubra to Long Bay, when large winter south swells closed-out Maroubra. (and everywhere)... the water-quality was so poor – you couldn't see your arm from the elbow down as you paddled. And the smell was something to behold! I had that many ENT infections as a result. (Oh the glorious folly of youth!)
Great article. But you missed one genuine underground and truly unhinged Maroubra-based movement: 'A.S.S. the Anti-shit Squad'. For some obscure reason: A.S.S. was asked to spear-head one particular protest march from Waverley Oval to Bondi Beach (circa 1988). I have fond memories, as we led the demonstration – pausing intermittently to perform the 'dead-cockroach' (lying prone on the Bondi Road, arms/legs flailing gasping for air) then looking back on the ENTIRE LENGTH AND BOTH LANES of Bondi Road, as tens of thousands of punters replicated our hilarious shenanigans. Glory days!

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Sam2609 Monday, 14 Oct 2019 at 3:55pm

speaking of stirring shit...

we have until wednesday to get as many signatures as possible on this official petition asking the Australian government to declare a climate emergency.

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truebluebasher Monday, 21 Oct 2019 at 11:01pm

Tweed Heads (Part 1) The Sewage Outfall

10 Years back Tweed Shire almost voted to run Treatment Plants back to the Dam.
Today Tweed is very upfront on which plants are models & which need an upgrade.

Banora & Kingscliff are the role models & Hastings Point is a bit old school & suss.
Kingy will even take your Boardriders Club on a tour if you like!

(Tweed sewage Surf timetable)
Banora releases 12ML on back of outgoing tide & takes 3hrs @ .75m/sec to exit bar.
Slowing at this point funnelling into EAC but the tail end will likely linger & return.
Note: Reverse incoming tide washes this thru WSR lineup from ebb to 2hrs back in.

Hastings Point outflow is aerated over dunes in holding Ponds & Creek.
1999 Cudgera Ck silts closed (So what happens to sewage?)
2001 Twice the Sewage overflowed the plant (You can see the stains on walls)
2003 The Mangroves Dieback...(Mangroves don't like being smothered.)
2004 Cudgera Ck seals shut again....The sewage flows where?
tbb ran some Aerial observations over 20 years.(Check Google 7/2017) 1st Frame
Seems that in drought 'Lowest tide' sewage ponds in lineup & '700 mtrs' north.
Be mindful of surfing Hastings Point & North beachie on extreme low spring tides.
Aerials show feint sewage leach from creek dunes into the surf...
tbb thought he was imagining this & dug up this article...not happy to guess right!

Refer to : tbb Gold Coast PFAS in Tugun groundwater + Miami Fuel in Groundwater
*Rare Google 7/17 Timeline pan GC ocean > Jet Plane/Beacon+Dredge mid Rainbow.

Hastings dunes may sponge flooded sewage resulting in further toxic release
tbb advises local surfers to check on unaccounted ocean contamination.

(Sewage Spills)
2004 [No Swim/Fish/Boating] 300,000 litre Sewage Spill into Tweed River
2005 Kyogle Truckie busted pumping a truckload into the Tweed River
2005 Banora Greens pipe spraying raw sewage
2006 [No swim/Fish] Murwillumbah Rains force halt & rogue toxic sewage release
2009 Dungay Ck Sewage Truck collapses bridge.
2011 Flooded Sewage Contamination Swim Warning
2014 Drinking Water looks gross!
2014 [No Swim'Fish] Worker damages pipe at Tweed West
2014 Back Yard is a Sewer.
2017 [No Swim] Floods shutdown Regional Plants
2017 [No Swim] Banora Plant Raw Sewage Leak 20ML
2019 [No Swim] Damage Line Tweed West

Sewage Re-use (Good & Bad)
See also Kingscliff & Banora Plants (Link above)

New Tweed Development Sewage Plants.
Kings Forest

Tweed's pet Fatberg

Tweed Heads (Part 2) " Fish Kills" ...continues below..

dimdim's picture
dimdim's picture
dimdim Tuesday, 15 Oct 2019 at 8:57pm

Trublue is that all you,ve got for us ? lol

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guy FINLAY Tuesday, 15 Oct 2019 at 11:51pm

I was the photographer asked/briefed to get the shot and so spent time organising and going out at 6' Winki Pop (closest tube to the Sewerage outfall) interesting to read Andrews version of what happened at Winki Pop as yes he nearly did drown and because of the gas mask? which I believe we took the glass out of before surfing? Anyhow maybe should try and find those pictures in the archive. I didn't know that Andrew had jumped to Sean Davey and then Crawford either until Tracks came out. Funny stuff, Surfing Magazines like Tracks during the Mason Stewart era. Time and effort = 0$
I wonder if Sean made any money or it all just fell in PCs legendary lap?

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zephatalien Wednesday, 16 Oct 2019 at 11:05am

Good one Stu. That article by Wilcox is a beauty. I remember being taught that where the outflow pipes discharged were some of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Seems the arguments back in the day about the shit storms were mostly about people not wanting to suurf or swim in shit, rather than an environmental focus. Not arguing that the outflows were positive for the environment, sewage treatment continues to be pretty contentious and in most places, bad practice.

I've seen criticism of the extinction rebellion rabble along the lines of "Yeah but you drove a fossil fuel engine to come to a protest about fossil fuels". While it might be hypocritical and laughably inadequate, the Teahupoo song and dance was at least more refined and conscientious than business-as-usual. The more spotlight put onto environmental problems the more likely people will accept hefty economic ramifications of actual action? Surely.

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chook Wednesday, 16 Oct 2019 at 11:35am

raw sewage at sydney's beaches is not a thing of the past.
not all of sydney's sewage is pumped offshore
raw sewage is still pumped straight off the cliff into the water at diamond bay.

when there is northeast wind, as there frequently is in summer, bondi, tama and bronte are full of raw sewage. it stinks.

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tango Friday, 18 Oct 2019 at 12:12am

Yep, and let's not forget all the stormwater which pours down the gutter and into the ocean replete with dog shite, oil and other assorted crap.

If you want a good read about the Sydney debacle, get Sharon Beder's Toxic Fish and Sewer Surfing book and be prepared to read things twice, as you will not believe what the authorities used to get away with. It's a cracker.

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chook Friday, 18 Oct 2019 at 11:52am

thanks for that tango...will read.
yeah, good idea to avoid the sydney beaches for at least a day or two after a big rain.

i've heard that plenty of south coast communities can't handle the holiday sewage. Merimbula seems to get a bit stinky. bawley is still on septic tanks.

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tango's picture
tango Friday, 18 Oct 2019 at 3:00pm

Very few places near towns escape the grot after it rains. Some disperse/dilute it faster than others.

Ronson's picture
Ronson's picture
Ronson Wednesday, 16 Oct 2019 at 11:39am

Cut my grommet teeth on the Nth Steyne - Queensie stretch in the early 80's and while never got sick the difference between then and now is stark. Problem then, in looking further north for respite, was that in a south swell, south wind combo (very common) it nailed everywhere else on the NB's too bar white rock and brownwater (nice piece of irony there)

Watery's picture
Watery's picture
Watery Saturday, 19 Oct 2019 at 8:29pm

In 1989 I was 15, and had been an active tracks reader for 3 years (including a pile of hand-me-downs from the 70s). I remember this issue (and AK on the cover) well. I'd just had a visit to Sydney ruined by catching something horrible in the surf at Manly. I also used it for a presentation at school on outfalls (I'm starting to see why I wasn't Mr Popular at school).

I've spent 20 of the last 30 years (my entire professional life) designing municipal sewage treatment plants and recycled water treatment plants throughout eastern Australia and overseas - so yeah, you could say tracks had an impact (along with getting sick at Manly and Midnight Oil's first 6 albums).

Years later, I met Kirk Wilcox at a conference in Austria, and chat with Ian Cohen quite often...funny how things turn out.

A few notes on some of the comments made above:

The level of treatment at Bondi, Malabar and North Head treatment plants was not substantially improved in the 90s (they still only screen out gross solids, then settle dispersed solids prior to discharge - all of the dissolved pollutants, and ~40-50% solid pollutants go out to sea). The extension of the outfalls basically transferred and dispersed the pollutants such that their impact on the beaches reduced dramatically. While this remains far from ideal from a marine perspective (in my view), it saves a lot of electricity.

The inland Sydney plants are a huge contrast, and generally delivery high effluent quality - they only treat a small fraction of the flow.

The treatment at Burwood Beach remains pretty basic (though a bit better than primary only), and the outfall is not very long. I've never surfed nearby, but I wouldn't be surprised if it still has its days.

tbb - On the Gold Coast, there is no desire to make Elanora any larger in capacity, so the gradual increases in loads have been managed by transferring sewage to Merrimac.

Merrimac, Coombabah and Pimpama all achieve high effluent quality (on conventional measures). All of the Gold Coast's treated water is discharged to the seaway during the ebbtide (outside of extreme wet weather).

You are right that Banora Point and Kingscliff aren't too bad (Kingscliff is a bit newer and better, but both achieve reasonable nitrogen and phosphorus removal, and reasonably good filtration / disinfection of the effluent prior to discharge).

There is a 5-6km long outfall in development for Merimbula (a very expensive item). The existing discharge is over the beach, with some flow infiltrated to groundwater. Having looked at the model outputs, I suspect that a bit more treatment would mean a shorter outfall would be fine (leaving funds left over for more recycling of the water).

Microplastics are undoubtedly heading to the ocean via sewage treatment plants. For the better plants (full secondary treatment), the proportion of microplastics captured is pretty high (they largely end up in biosolids). That said, each one of you connected to a centralised sewage system is likely discharging around 100 plastic particles (> 20 micron in size) to the ocean each day. (Don't feel bad - the microplastic concentration in bottled water is around 20-120 times higher). Those of you connected to a Sydney Coastal plant, or Burwood beach, or a bunch of other plants in NSW, Vic and Tassie, the number of particles discharged is likely to be orders of magnitude higher. We are only now getting a good handle on the microplastic concentrations in effluent, but still have no idea what the impact on human health is.

There are also a bunch of other pollutants science is really only starting to get a grip on (e.g. PFOS, engineered nanomaterials, other persistent pollutants).

No shortage of work still to do - even in rich old Australia.

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock Sunday, 20 Oct 2019 at 9:17am

Thanks for the informative post Watery. Looks like you know your shit.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Sunday, 20 Oct 2019 at 9:51am

Well done the both of you.

Watery's picture
Watery's picture
Watery Sunday, 20 Oct 2019 at 12:30pm

Hope it helps... shit is my bread and butter after all.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Monday, 21 Oct 2019 at 3:47pm


truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 2:20am

Tweed Heads (Part 2) 'Fish Kills'

Tweed Fish kills are caused by Cold Snaps,Acid Sulphate Soils,Fresh/Salt Water mix.
Don't swim after toxic flood overflow or when toxin pools in slow silted creek mouths.

2018 Clarrie Hall Dam 500 Oz Bass found Dead

Tweed River Fish Kills
*1956 + *1969 + *1978 *credits link...
1987- 2,000 T of Coloidal Aluminum from Cane Fields > (23km Fish Kill)
Fishermen vs Farmers (500 @ Meeting) > TRAC Tweed River Advisory Committee.
1992 -1,200T of Sulphuric Acid leeched from long dry into floodwater for Fish Kill.
1994 *Stotts Island minor fish incident
2001 Major Flood washes ASS into lower tributaries for expansive killings.
2004 *Jack Evans Boat Harbour fish Kill
2005/2016 Banora (Vintage Lakes) 1,000 + good size Mullet,Birds,Turtles died.

Kingscliff- Cudgen Creek
1950's Creek ran Oysters until Sand Mining dredged to 15m deep.
Bridge mounts extended far into creek leaving minimum width creating eddies.
These bridge eddies eroded North Head by 3m resulting in 1967 Training walls+'86.
1985-2006 Salt Marsh died off by 91%
1987 Reserve Ck + Clothiers Ck ASS poisoned Cudgen Lake > Fish Kill
1988 Major Kill again after long drought > Flood
1990 Monitoring of ASS begins
1991 - 2 extensive Prawn & Fish Kills thru the Creek
1998 NPWS Cudgen Nature Reserve Plan
1998 Massive 45,000 Fish Kill
1999 NSW Hot Spot listing (Not good)
2001 Cudgen Lake Fish Kill
2004-08 NPWS (1998)Plan is acted upon
2010 Cudgen Creek Fish Kill 80 fish + prawns.
2010 Dolphins are removed from upper bridge side of creek before heavy rains.
Floods trap them behind narrow bridge in fresh water with no food.
Bridge jumpers & Fisherman discourage Dolphins narrow passage out to sea.
Note in this case dolphins were spared the toxic water of 2010 fish kill.

Hastings Point - Cudgera Creek (Companions Part 1)
1999 / 2004 Creek silted up
2001 Sewage overflows twice in one year (only time?)
2003 Mangroves Dieback
2004 Large variety of good sized Fish,eel & crabs all found dead.
2014 Another Fish Kill of larger fish

Pottsville or (Potts Point) Mooball Creek
Mooball Creek bridge was another cost cutter with mounts extending well into creek.
Sourcing more closer raw material & less Manufactured Resource to save on cost.
re: Kingscliff bridge eddy erosion on North Head resulted in 1967 breakwalls (Same)
1975 Extra Groynes were built inside back to Bridge.
1978 Creek silts closed (Previous closures were cleared by Horse/scoop/Tractor)
Credits re: (18th Oct 2018) Tweed Valley Weekly Pages 3 & 5
2005 Fish Kill
2007 Creek Silts
2017 Fish Kill
2018 Creek Silts + Groms countdown Council reopen...for Rivermouth surf fest

tbb enjoys uncovering & sharing rare research...
Note: There are many more incidents here than officially recorded by authorities.
Tip! History disappears online...If you see something you like print it out. (Trust me!)
See also Gold Coast Sewage & Fish Kills above (All are exclusive to #1 swellnet)