River vandals set to escape
By PETER CATON
INDUSTRIAL vandals who dumped deadly acidic waste into the Tweed's sewer system are set to escape prosecution.
The incident around Christmas time shut down a major sewer plant, created a vile odour affecting nearby residents and led to a ban on swimming and recreational activities in the Rous River.
But despite suspicions about who may have been responsible, senior council officers yesterday revealed they lacked specific evidence to take action against any organisation or person suspected of dumping the material.
The Council's acting chief engineer Patrick Knight said staff had traced some of the decomposed material which "appeared to be a sugary type of substance" back to a pumping station at Condong but added "that is as far as we can go".
"We haven't got any hard evidence to say one particular industry did it," he said.
Mr Knight said the council was continuing to discuss the incident with the NSW Environment Protection Authority but it was unlikely further action would be taken.
Meanwhile further testing on water in the Rous River could lead to a lifting of the ban on recreational activity as early as today.
The acidic material, pumped with other sewage into the Murwillumbah Sewage Treatment Plant, killed microbes in the plant causing it to be shut down.
Council staff attempted to store the material along with other incoming sewage in holding tanks until the level of beneficial microbes could be revived and the biological treatment re-started.
But heavy rain increased the amount of liquid flowing into the plant forcing the release of some partially-treated effluent, leading to the ban on swimming and other activity in the Rous River.
Mr Knight said tests on river water late last week indicated it was safe and if those results were verified after more testing yesterday, the ban could be lifted today.