Sewer network to cost residents

A GROUP of Hickson Street, Merewether Heights residents will be forced to pay $70,000 from their own pockets if they want to be connected to the sewerage network.

The 14 residents on the southern side of the street had argued they should be allowed to access funding from the state government’s priority sewerage program to pay for the works.

The program was introduced in 1997 following concerns about the impact of villages without sewers on public health and the environment.

Hunter Water said that it would not seek funding from the program because it would not provide a benefit to the wider community.

‘‘The NSW government does not fund the cost of connecting properties to Hunter Water’s sewer network as the [residents’] lawyer appears to suggest,’’ a Hunter Water spokesman said.

‘‘Rather that cost is paid by Hunter Water’s customers via a special environmental levy.’’ The standoff began last month when Newcastle City Council set a February 21 deadline for the residents to indicate when and how they planned to transition to the sewerage network. The council is concerned the existing septic tanks are not environmentally sustainable.

The alternative is to convert to a pump-out arrangement, which could cost hundreds of dollars per week to each resident, indefinitely.

Hunter Water is happy to connect the residents to the sewerage network but wants them to foot the $1million bill. This equates to about $75,000 per property.

The residents say they are each happy to pay an estimated $25,000 for the connection, but are refusing to pay for its construction.

A council spokeswoman said on March 4 that the council had been working to resolve the issue since 2008.

‘‘Our job is to ensure the systems operate in a safe and healthy manner and to ensure health and environmental concerns are being addressed,’’ she said.

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