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How the sewer system works

Sewer management

Council currently operates five separate sewerage schemes to serve the urban areas of Port Macquarie (including North Shore), Wauchope (including Beechwood), Kew/Kendall (including Herons Creek), Camden Haven and Lake Cathie/Bonny Hills.

Our brochure can be viewed here:  " Wastewater Systems - how the system works 'after the flush'2MB pdf(PDF, 2MB) ".

Each sewerage scheme has been individually designed using the best technology available at the time of construction, and each process is slightly different and unique.  The general wastewater treatment process can be divided into four main areas:

  • Collection
  • Pre-Treatment
  • Main Treatment (includes Primary, Secondary and Tertiary) and
  • Sludge Treatment.


Extensive underground reticulation networks collect raw sewage from you, the owners of the sewerage system.  In total, reticulation networks in the Hastings comprise in excess of 655 kilometers of pipelines and 13,087 manholes, serving approximately 28,000 connected premises throughout the Local Government Area.

Pipes are laid on a slope to allow sewage to flow to the nearest pumping station.  There are currently 167 sewage pumping stations within the network.   The reticulation network is quite capable of handling normal sewage however, there are certain substances that can cause blockages and subsequently overflows, which can be a major health hazard.  Dramatic increases in flows due to storm-water ingress and illegal discharge of trade waste into the system cause operational problems requiring careful management.


Raw sewage contains varying quantities of floating and suspended solids, some of considerable size.  Materials such as rags, pieces of wood, metal, plastic, or rubble enter sewers and eventually reach the treatment plant.  These need to be removed as their presence interferes with the main treatment process and mechanical equipment involved.  In order to remove these problem solids, pre-treatment is used.

Main Treatment

Sewage is passed through the various stages of treatment before being either reused or discharged. The overall intention is to separate the pollutants from the water so that both the treated water and the solid by-products can be reused.

All Main Treatment in the Hastings uses the process of Activated Sludge.  The Activated Sludge process is widely used in Australia and involves the acceleration of natural microbial growth by aerating.  The term ‘Activated Sludge’ refers to the presence of large amounts of bacteria and other microbes in sewage that are feeding off our organic waste.  The end result is a very efficient conversion of waste pollutants into their biomass.  Various 'polishing' technologies are also used in each wastewater treatment plant in the Hastings to ensure wastewater is clean enough for its final use.

Bio-Solid Treatment

Sludge is created from all processes involved in wastewater treatment.  Sludge has a different composition depending on where it comes from.  For example, sludge removed from an Activated Sludge Lagoon is different from sludge removed from a Primary Sedimentation Tank.

Most sludge in the Hastings is generated from the Activated Sludge process.  Sludge Digestion at the wastewater treatment plants, which converts the solids into a much more stable and odourless form, gives rise to the production of bio-solids.  Once thought of as purely a waste product, dewatered biosolids are now transported to the Cairncross Composting Facility and form a very important ingredient in the composting process.

Biosolids produced at the Port Macquarie Wastewater Treatment Plant (WwTP) are not digested, however, due to the process and the continuous dewatering facility at the site, dewatered biosolids are also used in the composting process.

Our brochure can be viewed here:  " How it works - Port Macquarie Wastewater Treatment Plant".1MB pdf(PDF, 1MB)

Septic Waste

Septic waste from outlying areas in the Hastings is transported by tankers to Port Macquarie Wastewater Treatment Plant (WwTP).  

No commercial septic waste or effluent will be accepted at Wauchope WwTP. 

Our brochure can be viewed here:  " Wastewater - A User's Guide" including tips on avoiding common problems to help preserve the environment.1MB pdf(PDF, 1MB)

This page was last updated on: 18 June 2020