Previous updates

UPDATE - 22 August 2018

Monitoring and Clean Up – Continuing to improve our approach

Wannon Water remains committed to the ongoing monitoring and clean-up of nurdles from local beaches until the end of the year. We also appreciate the ongoing collection of nurdles by members of the community, especially given the wet and wild winter we have experienced along our coast.

We’ve recently reviewed our monitoring and clean-up approach in consultation with the Environment Protection Authority, Parks Victoria, Warrnambool City Council and community representatives, and will be adopting an improved method from the start of September. Our updated approach aims to balance the location and abundance of nurdles, the cost to our customers, risk to the environment, and the safety and conditions for those doing the collection.

The following explains our approach going forward :

1 – We will clean up nurdles and other ocean plastic every fortnight

Wannon Water will undertake fortnightly beach clean-ups of nurdles and other ocean plastic, weather permitting, until mid-December. These clean-ups will usually be at Shelly Beach where about two thirds of the nurdles collected or received by Wannon Water have been found. We may do some clean-ups at other sites, such as East Beach in Port Fairy, depending on observations of nurdles and other plastics.

2 – We will monitor in between clean-ups

Wannon Water will also monitor nurdle numbers on Shelly Beach once every other week, to ensure we understand how numbers are changing in response to clean-ups, weather and tides. If numbers are found to be high during these surveys, we may deploy additional clean-up teams.

3 – Community reports should be directed to us

Wannon Water recognises that community observations are useful to help target our ongoing clean-up, however we will no longer monitor third party social media sites for reports of nurdles.

Community members wishing to report nurdles to us are requested to:

  • Complete a 30-minute “nurdle sample” on the beach as follows: collect nurdles for 10 minutes at a location, then move at least 50 metres to another part of the beach and collect for another 10 minutes, and then move once more and collect for 10 minutes. This gives a 30-minute sampling of actual numbers of nurdles able to be collected along a beach, and will help us decide if a clean up crew would be effective.
  • Community members should report their results direct to Wannon Water via email nurdles@wannonwater.com.au, phone 1800 926 666 or on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/wannonwater/. We need to know how many nurdles were collected in 30 minutes, how many people did that collecting, and where the collection was.
  • Where we receive a community report, we will endeavour to follow up within five days to advise whether we completed a clean-up, and what the results were.

4 – We will continue to build a long term picture

We are currently completing our quarterly mapping of nurdles from Port Fairy to Logan’s Beach, and will publish the results and a general update on this page in early September. Another round of mapping will also be completed in November.

UPDATE - 11 May 2018

This update provides an overview of our ongoing activity since the end of February when we released a copy of our report to the EPA into the illegal dumping of nurdles into the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant last November.

The incident is possibly the first record of a nurdle spill from a sewage treatment plant in Australia.

We continue to conduct regular inspections within our plant, and there has been no new activity to indicate continuing delivery of nurdles. Additional screens installed within the plant to improve environmental protections remain in place.

The clean-up of nurdles on local beaches has involved a concerted and sustained effort by the community, Wannon Water and other agency staff. We would particularly like to acknowledge the very significant contribution by community volunteers and thank them for their efforts.

 

Nurdles in buckets

 

Monitoring and Clean Up

We remain committed to ongoing monitoring and clean-up of nurdles occurring on our local beaches. This will continue until the end of 2018, when we will reassess the need for ongoing activity. Wannon Water is managing our ongoing effort through a dedicated project team who undertake this work as part of their normal duties.

Our ongoing approach is to monitor the beaches ourselves, and also to respond to community observations of nurdles that are made through social media or direct reporting to Wannon Water by either phoning 1300 926 668 or emailing Nurdle.Response@wannonwater.com.au

We understand from our regular surveys from Port Fairy to Logans Beach that the number of nurdles being observed on beaches had declined during the late summer, but we also understand this does not mean the environment is “nurdle free”. We recently sampled 11 sites on Shelly Beach and found nurdles buried in the sand, particularly in the top 20 centimetres. Several sites had no nurdles which was encouraging.

During late March, and again in mid-April, severe weather along our coast exposed numbers of these buried nurdles on some local beaches. Community volunteers undertook further clean up, as did Wannon Water. In total, Wannon Water collected around 4.5 litres, or 100,000 nurdles from these two events. The amount of nurdles collected by community volunteers was also significant, although we don’t have an estimate of this volume. The recent collections add to the 24.7 litres (approx. 570,000) of nurdles which we reported had been collected from beaches by community and Wannon Water from mid-November 2017 to the end of February 2018.

 

Nurdle bags

 

We remain interested in receiving nurdles from community collections to include in the overall record keeping, rather than try and convert measures reported on social media. Nurdles can be dropped off at our Warrnambool office. More information can be found in our Nurdle Information Sheet.

We’re also interested in increasing the efficiency of clean-up activities, and have tried collecting nurdles, other plastics, weed etc. without separating it on the beach, and then sorting/sieving the lot as a batch later. This appears to be more efficient but we’re still finalising our thoughts on this. We’ve also been exploring the concept of a custom-built mechanised approach, but this remains just an idea at this stage. We would welcome other innovative ideas on how collection efficiency could be improved. Wannon Water has spent in excess of $330,000 so far on this event.

We are commencing another detailed survey and mapping run from Port Fairy to Logans Beach during May. This will be the first quarterly mapping, with two more runs planned for August and November to track the longer term movement and abundance of nurdles. Previous mapping has been very useful in understanding the amount of nurdles on beaches, and the priority areas for clean-up. The timing of these quarterly surveys aligns with particularly high tides along the coast, which we think should assist in uncovering any buried nurdles.

Beyond Nurdles

The nurdle clean-up has also highlighted the very large volume of non-nurdle plastics on the beaches between Port Fairy and Warrnambool, which in our view represents the more significant environmental risk. These plastics are not related to Wannon Water. 

As a result of this observation, Wannon Water has initiated and sponsored the Clean Oceans Collective – caring for Mirteech group (Mirteech is the local indigenous term for ocean). Our sponsorship is for $30,000 and in-kind project officer support.  The program intends on using a science-based approach to better understand the beach plastics problems, prioritise actions and implement changes.  The steering group involves Wannon Water, Warrnambool City Council, Moyne Shire, Glenelg Hopkins CMA and two community representatives.

 

Clean Oceans Collective

 

The Clean Oceans Collective has engaged the Tangaroa Blue Foundation (experts in marine debris) to hold a series of multi-stakeholder workshops over 2018 and early 2019 to develop the community program.  A local coordinator has also been engaged to support the community participation and assist with coordination.

Investigation

Wannon Water is actively continuing its investigation into the source of the nurdles, which remains unknown at this time. We remain committed to this investigation, as we believe it is important to help avoid future events, and also to bring a greater sense of closure for all who have been involved. We are also considering the possibility that the original source may never be known.

Impacts

There have been no impacts on public health or safety, or any wildlife deaths attributed to this incident. Visual amenity has been impacted for some communities.

Some nurdles remain in the environment, although we do not know how many, as we do not know how many were delivered to, or passed through, our treatment plant. Unfortunately, we believe that the collection and removal of all nurdles that passed through our treatment plant and into our local environment is not a practical or realistic objective.

Sharing our learnings

Wannon Water has commenced sharing a number of learnings from this event with a broader audience, to raise the profile of plastic pollution, and encourage others in our sector to consider “unknown” risks and the opportunities for controlling or responding to them if they occur.

We recently addressed the Victorian Water Sector Resilience Network, which included representatives from a number of emergency service agencies.

DELWP also recently conducted an inter-agency debrief in Warrnambool into the incident management response, which Wannon Water had a number of representatives attend. The findings from that debrief will be used to inform broader Victorian responses to incidents that may have similar characteristics to nurdles.

UPDATE – 1 March 2018

Wannon Water has released a report into the illegal dumping of nurdles into the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant last November.

The report was prepared for the Environment Protection Authority which issued Wannon Water with a clean-up notice after some of the tiny plastic pellets spilled through the plant’s ocean outfall and washed up on beaches from Warrnambool to Port Fairy. It is possibly the first record of a nurdle spill from a sewage treatment plant in Australia.

The EPA is satisfied that Wannon Water has met all the requirements of the clean-up notice and the notice has been revoked.

The clean-up on beaches at Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Killarney to date has involved a concerted and sustained effort by the community, Wannon Water and other agency staff. We would particularly like to acknowledge the very significant contribution by community volunteers and thank them for their efforts.

Nurdle Infographic 

Wannon Water is committed to the ongoing surveying, monitoring and cleaning up of beaches throughout 2018 in response to weather and tidal changes. We also plan to revisit areas that are currently occupied by Hooded Plovers when the breeding season has finished and conduct clean-ups where practicable.

Read more here:

Media Release - Wannon Water releases report into nurdle spill

Report to EPA on Nurdle Incident Summary and Future Directions

 

UPDATE – 6 February 2018

Wannon Water held its fourth large, once-a-week clean-up effort at Shelly and Logans beaches on 31 January. A clean-up crew of 10 people worked for at Shelly Beach and a crew of five people at Logans Beach for three hours each. We collected a total volume of 160 millilitres of nurdles, which was made up of 130 millilitres from Shelly Beach and 30 millilitres from Logans Beach.

The next coordinated clean-up events are:

  • Saturday 10 February - Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network’s community beach clean-up at Levy's Beach, 8am -12noon. Click here for the event flyer.  
  • Wednesday 14 February - Wannon Water’s next coordinated beach clean-up. Details of this event will be confirmed later this week.

The latest nurdle occurrence map in now available. As it is a critical time in the Hooded Plover breeding season, please read the Hooded Plover section on our nurdle information sheet before visiting beaches and keep well away from marked Hooded Plover sites.

All nurdles collected are still required to be bagged and dropped off at one of the collection locations. If you have a collection of nurdles at home, please arrange for them to be dropped off at one of the locations listed above as soon as possible. For collection locations and more information on collecting, bagging and reporting of nurdles please read our nurdle information sheet.

 

UPDATE - 25 January 2018

This week we held our third large, once-a-week clean-up effort at Shelly and Spookies Beaches. A clean-up crew of 19 people attended yesterday’s three-hour event. We collected a total volume of 390 millilitres of nurdles, which was made up of 350 millilitres from Shelly Beach and 40 millilitres from Spookies Beach.

Our next clean-up event is scheduled to take place next Wednesday, 31 January 2018 at Shelly Beach. For all of the details please join our Facebook event.

The latest nurdle occurrence map in now available. Evidence of nurdle concentrations are still being found at Second Bay, Shelly Beach and east end of Logans Beach. As it is a critical time in the Hooded Plover breeding season, please read the Hooded Plover section on our nurdle information sheet before visiting beaches and keep well away from marked Hooded Plover sites.

The nurdle collection point bins and equipment boxes have been removed from beaches. Nurdle collection bins will be available at the following office locations during business hours; Wannon Water’s Office (25 Gateway Rd, Warrnambool), Warrnambool City Council Office (25 Liebig St, Warrnambool) and Moyne Shire Office (Princes Street, Port Fairy).

All nurdles collected are still required to be bagged and dropped off at one of the collection locations listed above. If you have a collection of nurdles at home, please arrange for them to be dropped off at one of the locations listed above as soon as possible. For more information on collecting, bagging and reporting of nurdles please read our nurdle information sheet.

We are continuing our investigations into the original source of the nurdles with assistance from the Environment Protection Authority. As part of the investigation we are undertaking site inspections and interviews at a range of locations and facilities across the region. We have also undertaken analysis to understand the composition and type of nurdles being collected. However, we do not yet know the original source of the nurdles and the investigation will therefore continue into the foreseeable future.

Nurdle Clean Up Second Bay And Shelly Beach 13 Copy

UPDATE -  18 January 2017

This week we held our second large, once-a-week clean-up effort at Shelly Beach and Second Bay. A clean-up crew of 18 people, including Wannon Water staff and labour hire attended yesterday’s three-hour event.

Once again this approach has proven more successful than our previous small daily clean-ups, with Shelly Beach and Second Bay the target of our first two clean up events.

We collected a total volume of 400 millilitres of nurdles, estimated at 8,800 nurdles, or an average collection rate of 2.7 nurdles per person per minute.

To find out when and where our next clean-up event will take place please follow us on Facebook.

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UPDATE -  10 January 2017

We have moved to a large, once-a-week clean-up effort on beaches still impacted by November's nurdle spill.

This has proved more successful than our previous small daily clean-ups, with Shelly Beach and Second Bay the target of the first event today.

Thirty people including three families, a Landcare representative, Wannon Water staff and labour hire attended the three-hour clean-up.

Nurdle clean up

They collected a total volume of 900 millilitres of nurdles, estimated at 37,700 nurdles, or an average collection rate of seven nurdles per person per minute. Most were discovered in soft sand around seaweed clumps. A large amount of other plastics and fishing rope was also collected.

UPDATE -  21 December 2017

For the latest information on the nurdle response please read the Community Information Update

UPDATE - 18 December 2017

The daily nurdle response continues this week, with the Incident Management Team targeting several beaches. The focus will primarily be at East Beach but we will also have crews working at Logan’s Beach and Shelly Beach from the middle of the week.  

Monitoring crews will continue to map nurdle concentrations, starting from East Beach and working their way east to Logan’s Beach.

Today's Community Information Update has further information.

Shelly Beach clean-up

UPDATE - 15 December 2017

Multiple clean-up crews have been out early today at East Beach and Shelly Beach. Monitoring crews continued mapping nurdle concentrations at Logan’s Beach from the river heading east to Allansford.

Today's Community Information Update has further information.

UPDATE - 14 December 2017

Clean-up crews from Wannon Water will be cleaning up nurdles from beaches today. Crews will be working at Shelly Beach and Second Bay in Warrnambool and also along East Beach in Port Fairy.

Today's Community Information Update has further information.

UPDATE - 13 December 2017

Due to extreme weather conditions, the Incident Management Team is not sending out any clean-up or monitoring crews today.

Clean-up crews will commence again from tomorrow, with details of beach locations to be advised.

Today's Community Information Update has further information.

UPDATE - 12 December 2017

Clean-up crews from Wannon Water will be cleaning up nurdles from beaches today from 1pm to 3pm. Our crews will be working on a concentration of nurdles at East Beach, Port Fairy, and at Shelly Beach/Second Bay, Warrnambool.

Two survey teams will continue mapping the coastline, with a focus on Main Beach, Warrnambool, from the Lady Bay heading east and Levy’s Beach, Warrnambool, heading west.

Tests have shown the mechanical beach sweeper has limitations in wet sand. We are looking at trailing it again today in drier sand.

Further information is available in today’s Community Information Update.

UPDATE - 11 December 2017

Three clean-up crews from Wannon Water will be cleaning up nurdles from beaches today from 1pm to 3pm. Two of the crews will be working on a concentration of nurdles at East Beach, Port Fairy, and the third crew will be at Logans Beach, Warrnambool.
Two survey teams will continue mapping the coastline, with a focus on Logans Beach heading east, and enhanced monitoring at East Beach from Connolly Street heading east.

Tests have shown the mechanical beach sweeper has limitations in wet sand. We are looking at further modifications and will be trialling it again when the weather improves.

Further information is available in today’s Community Information Update.

UPDATE -10 December 2017

Thank you to all those people who attended community beach clean-ups yesterday.

Two more clean-ups are scheduled today at Shelly Beach in Warrnambool and at East Beach in Port Fairy, both from 1pm to 3pm. Equipment including sieves and buckets, water, fruit and sunscreen will be available.

Members of the public who notice large numbers of nurdles on particular beaches, are being urged to report them by emailing the IMT at nurdleresponse@wannonwater.com.au.

We can then direct our survey and clean-up crews to those particular areas.

Further information is available in today's Community Information Update.

UPDATE - 9 December 2017

Community beach clean-ups have been organised from 1 to 3pm today and tomorrow.

Members of the public who would like to support the clean-up efforts are being encouraged to sign up at staging points at Shelly Beach in Warrnambool (access via Thunder Point carpark) and at East Beach in Port Fairy.

Equipment including sieves and buckets, water, fruit and sunscreen will be available.

Three Wannon Water crews will also be working at Shelly Beach, East Beach and Killarney Beach during the weekend.

Two mapping teams will also be continuing their work surveying the coastline, including the area from the Yambuk river mouth to The Crags.

See the latest Community Information Update for more details.

UPDATE - 8 December 2017

Today the IMT will once again be targeting district beaches with the highest density of nurdles. These include:

  • East Beach, Port Fairy
  • Killarney Beach and The Basin
  • Shelly Beach/Second Bay, Warrnambool

Wannon Water staff will be leading crews to collect nurdles at these locations today from 1:00pm-3:00pm.

See the latest Community Information Update for more details.

The DELWP/Wannon Water emergency management will once again deploy field crews today to survey the occurrence of nurdles at beaches along the coastline, which helps direct the clean-up effort towards the most heavily affected areas.

The IMT coordinating the response to the nurdle contamination will be relocating back to Wannon Water this afternoon. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) will remain the control agency.

UPDATE - 7 December 2017

Today the IMT will once again be targeting district beaches with the highest density of nurdles. These include:

  • East Beach, from Connolly St heading east, Port Fairy (two crews)
  • Shelly Beach/Second Bay, Warrnambool (one crew)

Wannon Water staff will be leading crews to collect nurdles at these locations today from 1:00pm-3:00pm.

See the latest Community Information Update for more details.

The DELWP/Wannon Water emergency management will once again deploy field crews today to survey the occurrence of nurdles at beaches along the coastline, which helps direct the clean-up effort towards the most heavily affected areas.

The latest nurdle occurrence map shows the clean-up efforts are making some good progress. Based on information provided by the community, today’s mapping will take place around Pea Soup and South Beach, Port Fairy.

The Wannon Water Facebook page will be updated regularly with details of scheduled beach clean-ups and other news.

UPDATE - 6 December 2017

Today the IMT will again be targeting district beaches with the highest density of nurdles. These include:

  • East Beach, from Connolly St heading east, Port Fairy (two crews)
  • Shelly Beach/Second Bay, Warrnambool (one crew)

Wannon Water staff will be leading crews to collect nurdles at these locations today from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.

See the latest Community Information Update for more details.

Mapping the nurdles

NurdlemappingquadratThe DELWP/Wannon Water emergency management team has been deploying field crews this week to survey the occurrence of nurdles at beaches on the Warrnambool – Port Fairy coastline.

On advice from Deakin University, they use a scientific survey method, walking along the high-tide line and laying a 50 centimetre x 50 centimetre ‘quadrat’ every 100 metres.

The location is recorded with a GPS and the number of nurdles within the quadrat is counted, and the spot given a rating between 1 (no nurdles) and 4 (more than 30 nurdles). The survey team then continues another 100 metres to survey the next location.

Over the last three days, teams have surveyed the whole 30 kilometre coastline between East Beach in Port Fairy and Logans Beach in Warrnambool.

They have created a nurdle occurrence map, which helps direct the clean-up effort towards the most heavily affected areas.

Today, field crews will be conducting surveys along Flaxman’s Hill (Terry’s Beach) and from Logans Beach to the Warrnambool breakwater.

UPDATE - 5 December 2017

Today’s nurdle clean-up will continue to focus on East Beach in Port Fairy and at Warrnambool's Shelly Beach and Logan's Beach where the highest density of nurdles are still being reported. A mechanical beach cleaner will also be in operation at Port Fairy’s East Beach today.

Wannon Water staff will be leading crews at these three sites from 1 to 3pm today. Community members who wish to assist are welcome to come along.

People collecting nurdles from beaches can place them into bins provided at beaches or in Wannon Water’s Gateway Road office foyer. Nurdles being collected in these bins are being passed on to Deakin University who will research their chemical signature as part of a worldwide research program.

The IMT is looking to coordinate a community clean-up effort on the weekend. We’ll provide further details about this as plans come together later this week.

Download today's Community Information Update for further information and details.

UPDATE - 4 December 2017

Today's nurdle clean-up is focussing on East Beach in Port Fairy and at Warrnambool's Shelly Beach and Logan's Beach where the highest density of nurdles have been reported.

Wannon Water staff will be leading crews at these three sites from 1 to 3pm today. Community members who wish to assist are welcome to come along.

The Incident Management Team (IMT) estimates that more than 40 litres of nurdles (over one million nurdles) have been collected from district beaches to date.

A dead dolphin was found at East Beach in Port Fairy this morning. This is not an unusual occurrence for this area of coast, particularly given the recent stormy weather and ocean currents. The IMT is confident this is unrelated to nurdles, but an autopsy will be conducted in line with standard wildlife protocols just to be sure.

People who observe wildlife feeding on or around nurdles are being asked to document the incident, preferably with photographs or videos, and notify the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on 136 186.

Download today's Community Information Update for further information and details.

UPDATE - 3 December 2017

Yesterday the nurdle collection efforts were back in action and yielded approximately 20,000 nurdles from Port Fairy East Beach, Shelly Beach and Killarney Beach.

Today, local community members and Wannon Water and DELWP staff will continue to collect nurdles between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. Our crews will be at Port Fairy East Beach, Golfies Beach and at the Flume.

Download today's Community Information Update for further details and refer to the Nurdle Collection Information Sheet if you plan to head out to help with the collection.

The Incident Management Team is also progressing its systematic surveillance of district beaches, mapping nurdle concentrations to ensure our collections are targeted and make the most efficient use of resources. As the mapping comes together, we will make this information available.

Please be aware that beach clean-up locations may change daily depending on the intelligence we receive about nurdle density. So, we suggest you check this web page regularly for the latest.

Please keep an eye on the weather and don't venture to district beaches during severe weather. Gusts of up to 60 km/h are predicted for today, so stay safe.

Shellybeachnurdlecleanup 2Dec2017 Web

Above: The nurdle collection crew at Shelly Beach yesterday.

 

UPDATE - 2 December 2017

Today the nurdle collection gets back into full swing after the severe weather warnings put a pause on the clean-up efforts yesterday.

Local community members supported by Wannon Water and DELWP staff will be collecting nurdles at several locations today between 10:00am and 1:00pm.

Tomorrow, Sunday 3 December, the nurdle collection will take place from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.

Further details are available in today's Community Information Update, including safety tips and details of nurdle collection points. These updates will be issued regularly. 

The Incident Management Team (IMT) has also developed a Nurdle Collection Information Sheet to help those assisting with the clean-up. 

The IMT continues to work on a long-term nurdle management strategy, including devising the most effective collection strategy, monitoring nurdle concentrations and working collaboratively with community efforts.

Nurdles 1 Nurdles 2

UPDATE - 1 December 2017

Due to severe weather forecasts, there will be no nurdle collections on Friday 1 December in the interests safety.

Working in stormy weather is dangerous and the Incident Management Team advises community groups not to venture to district beaches during severe weather.

See the Community Information Update  for the latest information, including nurdle collection times for the weekend, safety tips and details of nurdle collection points. These updates will be issued regularly. 

While there are no crews working on beaches today, the Incident Management Team is in full swing and is currently developing a long-term nurdle managemetn strategy with Wannon Water. This includes devising the most effective collection strategy, working collaboratively with community efforts and developing information materials.

UPDATE - 30 November 2017

The spill of nurdles from Warrnambool’s Sewage Treatment Plant has now been escalated to a Class 2 Emergency under Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley.

This has occurred due to the increasing complexity of responding to the contamination onto district beaches and the need for a multi-agency response.

A regional Incident Control Centre (ICC) has been established in Warrnambool with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning as the lead agency. Wannon Water is acting as a support agency and will be heavily involved, including providing employees into the ICC.

Deakin University Associate Professor Julie Mondon has advised us that the Warrnambool incident is the first recorded spill of nurdles from a sewage treatment plant in Australia that she is aware of. The incident is relatively small compared to spills incidents that have occurred in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in Hong Kong.

Deakin is researching the chemical signature of the nurdles that have washed up on district beaches and they will be added to a worldwide program.

Nurdles collected by teams from Wannon Water will be passed on to Deakin as part of that research. Nurdles shouldn’t go in landfill, but place them in bins provided at beaches or deposit them into a bin located in Wannon Water’s Gateway Road foyer. We will hand them onto Deakin University for research purposes.

Nurdle drop-off point bin

We are still continuing our beach clean-ups, deploying people to the beach early this morning at Killarney and at Logan’s Beach. 

Our sewage treatment plant treats trade waste from Warrnambool, Allansford and Koroit and meets regulatory standards. Like most treatment facilities across Australia, it has multiple systems in place to filter out the huge majority of foreign material that should not be disposed of down the toilet or drain. Plastics, baby wipes and other materials are screened out prior to entering the plant but the equipment is not designed to remove tiny plastics such as nurdles.

As a precautionary measure, we have gone beyond what is required in regulatory standards by installing an additional screen to the sewage treatment plant’s effluent outfall. This is designed to capture any remnant nurdles that may be dislodged from the sides of the tanks and in the plant during the continuing clean-up process.

Individuals who are heading out to help with the beach clean-up should be aware of the following:

  • Be sun smart – remember to stay hydrated, use sunscreen and wear hats and long sleeves
  • Weather – avoid extreme weather or storms
  • Handling – use gloves and wash hands with soap thoroughly afterwards
  • Flora and fauna - Be careful that clean-up efforts don’t impact nesting hooded plovers, or impact other fauna or flora. Find out more through Birdlife Australia here.

Shelly Beach clean-up

UPDATE -  29 November 2017

We have a dedicated response team prioritising and coordinating our immediate and long-term efforts in the clean-up of nurdles on district beaches. Our main priorities are to:

  1. Stop any further contamination into the environment
  2. Clean up the contamination of nurdles and support the community efforts in this regard
  3. Prevent any further plastic contamination into our system
  4. Continue our formal investigation into the original nurdle contamination source.

1. Stopping further contamination

Much of Wannon Water's focus last week was to isolate the tank at the sewage treatment plant in Warrnambool to ensure we could prevent any more illegally dumped nurdles entering the ocean environment.

Our operators painstakingly and physically removed millions of nurdles - 75 bucket loads - from the tanks and other infrastructure. This concentrated effort has ensured these nurdles didn't enter the environment.

2. Cleaning up the nurdles and assisting community efforts

With the plant now cleaned up and returned to full operation, we have diverted our resources to concentrate on the beach clean-up.

Last week we had employees on the ground collecting nurdles from the sand and talking to individuals about the situation. We also supported community efforts at district beaches, including sieves and buckets.

From this week our response teams are actively cleaning up nurdles on the beaches on a daily basis. This will continue for the coming weeks and includes the following:

  • Today we have crews at the Shelly Beach/Second Bay area and in Port Fairy
  • On Tuesday 28 November, we sent crews to Shelly Beach, Second Bay and Port Fairy
  • On Monday 27 November, we sent a crew of 14 people to clean up nurdles from Shelly Beach
  • Regular and frequent inspections of other district beaches to map and coordinate our efforts. Click here to see our mapping of beach locations in Warrnambool
  • We have worked with our supplier of a mechanical beach cleaner to customise the unit’s screens to better suit the collection of nurdles. Our early trials have been very promising and we are looking to have this in action on local beaches in Warrnambool and Port Fairy as soon as possible. This might also be useful to clean other plastics on beaches from other sources.

We continue to support the community efforts, including sieves and buckets in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Yambuk, and we're researching other potential methods for more efficiently and effectively cleaning up the nurdles.

Wannon Water is also proactively liaising with other agencies, including EPA, DELWP, Parks Victoria, Moyne Shire and Warrnambool City Council, seeking their support through a coordinated response.

We are meeting with local environmental and community groups to brief and update them on the response so far and to answer any questions. We’re also working with Parks Victoria, Bird Life Australia and the Far South West Friends of Hooded Plovers to ensure the clean-up efforts do not have an impact on nesting hooded plovers and other wildlife.

3. Preventing further contamination into our system

While the sewage treatment plant is a secure site and monitored frequently, this incident of illegally dumped nurdles has triggered a broader review of security and monitoring at the plant as an extra precaution. We're confident there are no more nurdles entering the plant.

4. Investigating the source of the nurdles

A thorough investigation into the source of the nurdles is underway and will take some time to complete. This is a priority for Wannon Water and we have called on specialist staff to help with this task.

Further information

Read on to learn more about nurdles and our response, or visit our latest media releases page.

UPDATE - 27 November 2017

Wannon Water has launched an investigation after thousands of microplastics, known as nurdles, were illegally dumped through the Warrnambool sewage treatment system.

Wannon Water shares the community’s concern about this event and the impact it is having on our community, the local environment and on Wannon Water’s customers.

The plastic beads (about the size of a lentil) have washed up on nearby beaches and Wannon Water has been actively cleaning up. We have also been providing support and assistance for the community efforts and we applaud those community volunteers who have been out helping to clean up.