The feud between TasWater, owned by Tasmania's 29 councils, and the Tasmanian Government which is planning to take it over has expanded into a slanging match over the disposal of trade waste.
The Tasmanian Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, has accused TasWater of threatening businesses by requiring them to abide with regulations over trade waste disposal.
He said that TasWater in some cases was “trying to force businesses to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a trade waste fix and is being completely inflexible about what options are available to businesses.
“Instead of looking at simple, cost-effective solutions, TasWater is, in many cases, trying to force businesses to install incredibly expensive options without being prepared to look at other alternatives,” Mr Gutwein said.
TasWater has responded saying that Mr Gutwein is encouraging businesses to break the law.
TasWater Chairman Miles Hampton said the Treasurer was either completely confused or being deliberately misleading in accusing TasWater of harming Tasmanian business by wanting firms to meet their obligations under State Government environmental law.
“In reality the government knows that TasWater is doing what it must under the law,” Mr Hampton said.
Recent correspondence from the state government department that provides the government with policy advice on trade waste stated “TasWater’s actions are entirely consistent with what is expected of it as a sewerage service provider under Tasmania’s current urban water legal and regulatory framework.”
“In pointing the finger at TasWater, the Treasurer fails to acknowledge that the Corporation is actually complying with State Government legislation. He would know this and would have been briefed on the facts by Environment Protection Authority officers.
“TasWater has a legal requirement to ensure people dispose of their trade waste appropriately and the State Government, through the EPA, is responsible for regulating TasWater’s activities in this regard. “Trade waste including fats, oils and grease cause blockages in the sewerage system and this can result in spills. Current practices by some businesses present a risk to public health and the environment.
“TasWater is not shifting costs, as Mr Gutwein would have people believe. It is simply asking businesses to take responsibility for the waste they produce by installing pre-treatment systems that will help reduce the risk to public health, to the environment and to our infrastructure."
The Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) has accused Mr Gutwein of “peddling misleading information.”
“The Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, cannot possibly expect us to believe that he does not know that TasWater’s trade waste activities are required under legislation, especially when the Department responsible for advising the Treasurer has clearly indicated that TasWater is taking appropriate action,” Mayor Quilliam said.
“The Treasurer’s suggestion that the trade waste issue is a consequence of previous council ownership is also ridiculous as he knows that more stringent standards have been introduced over time. That a further beat-up of TasWater, based on yet more mistruths and weasel words should happen just as the Government’s legislation, supporting a hostile and illegal takeover of TasWater, is being debated in the House of Assembly is of no surprise.”