• Tony Bosworth

Bowen Mountain residents kick up a stink over sewage pump-out costs

Bowen Mountain residents are being slugged as much as $4000 a year in rates because they don’t have a modern sewage system and now the anger has boiled over after one resident took to the Bowen Mountain Residents Group on Facebook and asked, “is anyone else sick of paying for council rates for pump out?”

It turns out – not surprisingly – that residents are fuming about the cost.

To put it in perspective, someone with a house on 100 acres at Bilpin is typically paying $5500 a year in rates, while many Bowen Mountain residents on a 600 square block can pay as much as $4999 in rates thanks to the need to have the onsite sewage collection system pumped out every two weeks.

Following decades of public pressure and agitation, other areas of the Hawkesbury, which previously were not connected to mains sewage, have been linked in – Wilberforce, Freemans Reach and Glossodia are three examples – but not Bowen Mountain.

Resident Fay Stalley said, “years ago there was a big push and that's when Agnes Banks and a few other areas were connected to the sewer. Unfortunately we were neglected.”

Across the Hawkesbury – according to the Council – there are some 790 properties with no mains sewage, with those residents being charged pump-out fees on their rates.

Bowen Mountain residents are calling for action – and their annoyance is building.

Some residents are even moving out of the Mountain because of the cost of pump-out.

“Council don’t care,” said Kate Wilkins. “It was bought up last year and they don’t want a bar of it. We’ve just sold and we are moving. We love it up here but to pay the cost of day care etc plus extra wear and tear on our cars to drive up the mountain every day with the cost of the rates it’s just getting out of control.

“Sad to go but I’m not going to miss paying $200 a fortnight towards our rates alone !!!! That’s how much it is out of my pay to pay it off. And every year it just goes up and up.”

Whether you are a single person or live in a home with six people, you are charged the same amount on your rates for pump-out.

Every two weeks, a waste tanker arrives from Staples – Council have a contract with the company - and pumps 6000 litres out of each tank. That 6000-litre limit is the same no matter whether you live alone or in a house with numerous people living there.

On top of the pump-out costs, residents also have to pay for a Council inspection once every three years, and once the feeder tank gets full that has to be pumped out too at a cost of around $400.

Now residents are calling for a petition to be raised and have asked for the help of Federal MP Susan Templeman.

The issue of sewage systems is a State responsibility and resident Paul Chegwidden said he had written to Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston some time ago to ask for assistance with the issue.

Pump-out costs get added to ratepayers' bills...

“Twelve months ago I sent an email to Robyn Preston regarding all the negatives associated with pump-out including ridiculous costs & fully laden 30 -40 ton semi trailer running around destroying roads & sometimes driving at excessive speeds. I am yet to receive any reply.”

Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett attempted to get the issue discussed at Council back in August last year but her call for councillors to hold an online Q&A session – a virtual town hall meeting, if you like - to assist the public with understanding the issues surrounding sullage pump out was voted down by Liberal and Labor councillors, says the Deputy Mayor.

“Disappointingly, the Liberal-Labor coalition disagreed with providing a forum for the community to be heard,” said the Deputy Mayor on Facebook after the Council meeting last year.

“They seemed to think that yet another brochure would suffice. But I know you have all received brochures in the past, and I know from speaking to many people that these do not necessarily address your specific questions,” said the Deputy Mayor.

“Why are these councillors so concerned about speaking to the community? About answering your questions?

“Some of us really want to hear what your questions and concerns are so that we can work towards a solution for the community.

“It is well past time that trucks should be driving around picking up poo and charging people for the privilege!”

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