Report suspected sewer spills as soon as possible to 1300 133 455.
(Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester areas only)
Spills from the sewerage system occur for a number of reasons, including blocked and broken pipes, flooding, and power outages affecting pumps.
In many instances, especially when we know about the spill straight away, we are able to safely contain it. However, in some cases raw sewage spills into stormwater drains and from there into natural waterways. If there is a risk that this has occurred we test the waterway for bacteria levels (faecal coliforms). If results show that bacteria levels are higher than those recommended as safe for swimming by the national guidelines then warning signs are erected and the relevant authorities and local organisations are notified. Water testing continues until results show the levels of bacteria have fallen to within the range recommended for safe swimming.
If you see a warning sign like the one pictured here it is advised that you avoid swimming until the signs are taken down. Typically it will be one to four days, however this is highly weather dependent.
It is important to note that heavy rain can also wash other pollutants such as dog droppings, oil, fertilisers and litter into our waterways. This impacts water quality and as a precaution, the NSW government recommends everyone avoid swimming in rivers and estuaries within three days due to the potential risk posed by microbial contamination of the waterways by such organisms as bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
You can help to prevent sewer spills!
- Think at the sink: use a sink strainer to catch food scraps, and pour fats and oils in a container for the bin.
- Wipes stop pipes: the toilet is just for the 'three P's: 'pee, poo and toilet paper'. Anything else can cause a blockage and needs to be placed in the bin. Remember - even wipes labelled 'flushable' can clog pipes, and need to go in the bin.
- Plant smart around sewer lines: keep deep rooted plants away from sewer pipes. When choosing plants check with your local nursery for appropriate species. Hunter Water has a good list of plants to avoid, however this list should not be considered exhaustive.
- Make sure your home's stormwater (outdoor eaves and gutters) is not connected to the sewer. During storms there is simply too much water to fit in the pipes and it leads to spills.