TAMWORTH Regional Council has reaffirmed a decision not to grow crops for human consumption at its effluent reuse farm.
The issue came up again with a request from the operator of the Winton reuse farm, REALM Agribusiness, for approval to grow barley for malting in autumn this year.
The farm on New Winton Rd officially opened in October 2011, with the aim of using wastewater treated at the nearby Westdale wastewater treatment plant to irrigate stock feed crops rather than discharging it to the Peel River system.
The original agreement for management excluded growing crops for human consumption unless the prior approval of council was obtained.
A report tabled at the latest council meeting said REALM Agribusiness had written to council seeking approval to grow barley because it is “potentially a higher value cereal crop which would maximise cash flow”.
The report detailed a comprehensive process to consider this request centred around three main issues: Is the quality of the treated effluent at the farm of a sufficient standard; what changes, if any, to approvals and other licences for the farm would be required; and an assessment of the increase, if any, in risk and cost to council and the farm operator.
The report said it was possible to grow crops for human consumption at the reuse farm “provided treatment processes continue being effective, and additional monitoring is undertaken to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment process, together with end use controls, to ensure the crops grown are only used in highly processed end products”.
However, the report also identified there would be increased risk to both council and REALM if the growing of crops for human consumption was approved, an increase in cost initially to council to ascertain the required changes to licences and approvals and an increase in council’s annual costs to monitor the treatment process and end controls.
Councillors considered that the possibility of increased cash flow for the operator could not be justified against the increased risks and costs and resolved not to approve the application.