The Werribee Form System

 Melborne and Metropolitan  Board of Works
           Victoria, Australia
          Professional Engineer
             MAY 1975
      Municipal  Construction Division
    Office of Water Program Operations
         Washington/ D.C. 20460


    Board   -    MMBW-Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
    BOD     -    biochemical oxygen demand
    cm      -    centimeter
    TOD     -    chemical oxygen demand
    l''arm    -    Werribee  1 arm soil treatment system of MMBW
    in.       -    inch
    MMBW  -    Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
    N        -    nitrogen
    mgd     -    million gallons per day
    mg/1     -    milligrams per litter
    ppm     -    parts per  million
    P        -    phosphorus
    SS       -    suspended solids
   Conventional secondary treatment - Reduction of pollutant concen-
   trations in Wastewater ky^p]^^    cnemi;eal^r;biblo^ical menas.
   Crop irrigation -  Application on land of water to meet the growth
   needs of plants.

   E vapot ran spi ration - The unit amount of water used on a given area
   in transpiration,  building of plant tissue, and evaporated from ad-
   jacent soil, snow, or intercepted precipitation in any specified time,

   Grass filtration  - Same as overland flow.

   Land application  or Land Treatment - The discharge of wastewater
   onto the soil for treatment, reuse or crop irrigation.

   Overland flow - Wastewater treatment by grass filtration, flooding
   or spray- runoff,  in which wastewater is applied onto gently  sloping,
   relatively impermeable soil which has been planted to vegetation,
   Biological  oxidation  occurs as the wastewater flows over the ground
   and makes contact with the biota in the vegetative litter.

   Raw sewage - Untreated wastewater,

   Secondary  treatment - Something more  than primary treatment,
   usually treatment By physical, chemical, or biological means  such
   as trickling filters, activated sludge, or chemical precipitation
   and filtration, Sometimes called mechanical treatment,


   1 Acre  feet  *   3, 060, 000 US gallons,  or 2, 550, 000 Imperial gallons
   A$          5   Australian dollars
   A$l. 00       -   US$1.35
   US$1.00     =   A$0,74

                          r	r
               M.M.t.W. H.MINMC
            PORT PHILLIP BAY
                - 2 -


    This report concerns the Werribee Farm soil treatment

area operated by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works

(MMBW).  The Board (MMBW) was constituted in 1890 by an Act

of the Parliment  of  Victoria to develop and operate a system of

main and general sewerage for the metropolis.  James Mansergh,

an eminent sanitation engineer from London, submitted eight al-

ternative schemes, five of which involved treatment by land; two,

disposal by ocean outfall; and  one,  by chemical precipitation.

Mansergh stated that the Werribee site was situated for land puri-

fication  of sewage  because it  was exceptionally  dry and had an

abnormally low rainfall compared with surrounding districts.  His

recommendation, based on proven success in England, and on the

benefit  of irrigation in an area of low rainfall,  was for disposal

by flood irrigation  on prepared land without prior treatment of

the sewage.   Even today raw sewage  is used at the Werribee

Farm.  Work began in 1892; and in 1897, the sewage from the

first property (a hotel) was delivered to the  system.   Mansergh,

of course, could not have foreseen Melbourne's rapid population

growth nor the demands  that would be  placed on the Werribee

Farm within  30  years of  its establishment.   By the late  1930's,

the heavy waste  loadings  had made it  necessary  to not only en-

large  the area of the Farm, but also to  complement land filtration

(called  crop irrigation in the United States) with  sedimentation,

grass filtration (overland flow) and lagooning.  Despite these ad-
ditions to the Farm's land treatment operations,  the 1897 system
remains,  to this day, basically as it was originally  conceived
and build.  Even the introduction of the  South-Eastern Sewerage
System (in 1974) on the opposite side of Port Phillip Bay fulfills
Mansergh's original concept of a  disposal system serving each
side of the Bay,  The relationship of the Werribee Farm to the
South-Eastern Sewerage System can be seen on the accompanying
map of the Melbourne Metropolitan area. In June 1974, there were
some 800,000 ratepayers (population  1, 880, 000) being served by
the Board.  The Werribee Farm serves about 95  percent of the
sewered areas in the metropolis.   The balance is served by four
other major and two minor systems.
    For the fiscal year ending June 1974,  the annual per capita
cost of  the Board's Werribee system was  A$l,13 (US$1, 53) for
95 percent of the population of 1, 880,  000.  This figure includes
all current costs.  The capital costs  of the land and the original
construction were written off years ago. The average daily flow
to the Werribee Farm is 125 million British Imperial gallons
(ISO mgd US).
    The principal problem with land treatment at MMBW is caused
by the increasing hydraulic load per  capita coupled with the in-
er©a@ing population served by the system.

    Because  the cost of purification at Werribee is substantially less

than by mechanical  treatment,  as well as because  the quality of the

effluent from Werribee is  higher,  the MMBW intends to continue to

utilize land treatment to the extent possible.   However,  as the popu-

lations of Melbourne and Geelong increase, and the urban  areas extend

outward toward the Werribee Farm, the acquisition of  additional land

adjacent to Werribee has not been possible. As a consequence, MMBW

is constructing conventional secondary mechanical  treatment works and

plans to  transfer about 45% of the hydrological load from the Werribee

Farm  to  the new  South East mechanical system.  In spite of  this,

by 1980/81 the MMBW estimates  that the pollutant loading will return

to the maximum that the Werribee Farm, as presently operated,  can


    Currently all sewage to the Werribee Farm is raw sewage.  This

has been the practice since land treatment was started in 1897.  How-

ever, in order to provide increased treatment capacity at Werribee,

MMBW is giving consideration to using a combination of part  primary

to full  secondary treatment in conjunction with biological processes.

    In summary,  the MMBW  Werribee system is in full operation, is

most successful, is substantially  lower in annual per capita cost of

operations,  and MMBW intends to continue to operate its land treat-

ment facilities indefinitely.


    The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972

 (Public  Law   92-500),  the legislative history of the Act,  and the

 regulations which  have been  issused  in accordance with the pro-

 visions  of the  Act,  provide  the statutory basis  for  consideration

'and funding of land-application systems in the treatment of municipal


    The rationale and goals within which land-application systems

 are to be considered are  contained in the following sections of the


    Section 208  -   Areawide  Waste Treatment Management

    Section 201  -   Facilities Planning

    Section 304  -   Best Practicable  Treatment  Technology (BPT)

    Section 212  -   Cost Effectiveness Analysis

 These sections,  together with the regulations pertaining to these

 sections of the Act, and the Program Memoranda to the EPA Regional

 Administrators, have  resulted in a growing interest  in the United

 States in soil  treatment systems  for  municipal  wastewater. The

 EPA  Deputy Administrator, on November  1,  1974, wrote  to the

 Regional Administrators urging them to ascertain that the regional

 review of  application for  construction of publicly-owned treatment

 works requires  that land application of wastewater be  considered

 as an alternative waste management system.  The DA said that the

 RA's should refuse to  fund projects using other  systems of waste

 treatment  if it can be  demonstrated that land treatment is the most

cost-effective alternative; is consistent with the environmental

assessment; and, in other aspects, satisfies  applicable  tests.

This memorandum is attached hereto.

    In addition to the potential for being the most cost effective

treatment alternative (note the MMBW total annual per capita cost

for the fiscal year ending June 1974 is US$1. 53 for sewage treat-

ment serving 95 percent of the population of 1.88 million people),

another significant reason for the growing interest in land treat-

ment is that PL 92-500  gives authority to the EPA Construction

Grants Program  to  fund publicly-owned soil treatment systems

including  the acquisition of the  land that will be an integral part

of the  treatment process -- Section 212(2)(A).

    The EPA report, entitled,  Survey of Facilities Using Land

Application of Wastewater by American Public Works Association,

identifies certain existing soil treatment systems that were started

in the United States as early as 1880. However, these early systems

started as disposal projects, and there is a major gap in  reliable

design data and information. The consequences of this dearth of

design information has handicapped the construction grants pro-

gram, primarily  because of the lack of  standard criteria.  Another

deterrent has been  the  lack of information concerning potential

health hazards from soil treatment  systems.

    Strangely,  however, the same dearth of information concerning

potential health hazards from secondary  treatment and discharge

to surface  waters has not slowed the demand for the more costly

conventional reinforced concrete treatment works. In fact, it seems

to me that there could be far greater health hazards  from secondary

discharge into surface waters because these waters are so often used

as sources  of  potable water by other downstream  municipalities.


    There are  17 residences located in  the midst of the Werribee

Farm which are used by farm employees and their families.  I visited

several of  the homes of farm employees, met members  of their

families including the children,  and enjoyed a Sunday picnic on the

front lawn of one of these residences.  There is no evidence of health

hazards caused by sewage irrigation in  the adjacent fields, and no

concern was expressed by the occupants of these houses about po-

tential health hazards.  To the  foreign observer that I  was, these

residences  appeared  no different  than any other farm residences,

and their occupants appeared no different than any other farm families,

either in Australia or in the United  States.  Incidentally, on previous

trips  to  Australia I  visited  many rural  communities  in  every

Australian  state, except the  Northern Territory,   and  I lived and

worked on farms in the United States over a period of several decades.

In my judgment, the farm houses located on the Werribee
Farm are better than  the majority of farm dwellings in  the
United States, and the occupants are living under better health
conditions  than some of their counterparts in  both Australia
and the U. S.
    The Werribee Farm soil treatment system is the outstanding
project in Australia from the standpoints of the  lowest annual
operating costs, success, size and extent of experience with the
use of wastewater effluents.   The map of Melbourne on page 2
shows the relationship of the Board's  Werribee Farm  to Port
Phillip Bay and the surrounding  Melbourne and Metropolitan
areas.  The South-Eastern Purification Plant (secondary treat-
ment) is  also shown on this map.
    The Farm has  served the residents  of Melbourne as a re-
liable and economical means of wastewater treatment and utiliza-
tion since 1897. The use of wastewater for irrigation of pasture
land,  and the  subsequent production of cattle and sheep, is an
outstanding example of reclamation and conservation. Over the
years, however, population and industry have increased greatly.
As a result* the Farm  is no longer able to cope satisfactorily
with the volumetric and organic loadings imposed upon it.


   .The livestock  at the Farm are  not  only money-earners from  the

point of view of meat, they are also an  essential part of the treatment

operations.                          .                 .

    Because wastewater treated at the Farm contains a high proportion

o! natural  fertilizers, it  promotes a prolific growth  of pasture; but

since crop irrigation is an efficient method only if the vegetation cover

is kept short, cattle and sheep are effectively used to "mow"the grass.

    Sheep were introduced to the Farm in 1900 and cattle some 10 years

later.  In  the years since,  the  Board has sold  more than  1.7 million

sheep and  well  over a quarter million  head  of beef cattle from  its

Angus and Hereford herds.

    Grazing of sheep is  on a seasonal  basis, and the Board buys  the

animals in various parts of the southeastern cornerof Australia to fatten

them for market.   The beef cattle, on the other hand,  are bred on  the

Farm and remain there until they are ready for sale.  The most suitable

animals are  retained  for breeding  and  the others  are sold as prime

meat on the hoof at Newmarket,  Melbourne.

    Sales of cattle  are subject to the condition that they must be immed-

iately slaughtered at an  abattoir in the  Melbourne metropolitan area,

and those killed must undergo rigid inspection. This condition, imposed

in the 1920'sby the Parliament of Victoria, was a political one obtained

by the commercial beef producers and had no health hazard basis.

    Diversion to the South Eastern Purification Plant of a portion of the

wastewater now reaching the Farm will ease, but not solve', the situation

for a number of years, but continued growth in the Western Catchment

will produce Hows and loadings well in excess of those at present. For

example,   the loading of  biochemical oxygen demand will  total about

750, 000 pounds per day before completion of the South Eastern Purifi-

cation Plant; diversion to that plant will remove slightly over 100, 000

pounds per day; increased development in the Western Catchment will

gain this amount back before 1985; and, less than fifty years hence, the

total loading  may exceed 1, 000, 000 pounds per day.

    The Farm system serves about 95 percent of the sewered areas in

the metropolis.  Except for wastes from the greater part of the Munici-

pality of Sunshine, which are discharged  directly in the Main  Outfall

Sewer, and from William is town,  which enter the main system at Spots-

wood, all wastes collected by the Farm system flow by gravity through

two main sewers - the North Yarra and the Hobsons  Bay Main Sewers

which unite at Spotswood.

    The combined flow then continues for  2 1/4 miles via a 9 ft. 3 in.

diameter trunk sewer which  terminates at the  Brooklyn pumping station.

Flows in this sewer enter the pumping station through two  penstocks,

or control  gates,  set  at the bottom of  a well, 144 ft.  deep and 22 ft.

in diameter.  The penstocks control the flow into each of two protective

screen wells, 156 ft. deep and 22 ft. in diameter.

    From each screen  well,  the  flow  continues to its  corresponding
pump well.
    The two pump wells are each 178 ft. deep  (internal) and 66 ft. in
diameter.  Four pumps are installed in each well, and the eight pumps
are driven by individual electric motors, the combined rating of which
totals 12, 800  horsepower.   Each pump has a maximum  capacity of
42 mgd  (50 mgd,  US).
    When Melbourne's sewerage scheme was originally designed, Port
Phillip  Bay was  selected as the most suitable body of water for the
final disposal  of the effluents after purification.
    The most  suitable method of purification known in European coun-
tries at the time was land treatment, and the  site  chosen near Werribee,
between the  Geelong Road  and Port Phillip Bay,  possessed  all the
factors  essential for the satisfactory operation of the method--ample
area, reasonable isolation,  suitable soil and climatic conditions.
    An area of 8, 847 acres was acquired,  and the preparatory work
began in 1893. As the city has grown, it has been necessary to  expand
the Farm area, and today it covers  27, 000 acres or nearly 42  square
    The  Board's Farm at Werribee begain operating in 1897. By 1900,
it handleda wastewater  flow averaging 12 million gallons per day (14.4
mgd,  US).    Since  that time,  the flow has increased as  a result of
growth of population and industry in the metropolitan area, and at present,
averages about 125  mgd (150 mgd, US or 568,650 cubic meters). The
mode of operation, originally  begun as irrigation  of 6,000 acres of

land to produce pasturage for cattle  and sheep,  has been expanded

over the years to include all-year use of anaerobic and aerobic lagoons,

sedimentation  basins  and open  sludge digestion lagoons,  as well as

overland flow (grass filtration)  from mid-autumn to mid-spring when

irrigation demands are minimal or nil.

    Rainfall at the Farm averages 19 in. (48.3 cm.) annually, of which

about 12. 5 in. (32. 2 cm. ) of  evenly distributed rainfall can be expected

during the  crop irrigation season; whereas,  the evapotranspirational

potential during the same period averages about 35.6 in.  (90.4 cm. ),

indicating that a major portion of the annual application of 44 in.  (112

cm. ) of sewage effluent has evaporated.  The daily flows of raw sewage

arriving at the Farm vary greatly depending upon rainfall. The current

average flow is about 150 mgd (568, 650 cubic  meters); however, during

storm periods peak flows as  high as 300 mgd (1, 140, 000 cubic meters)

may occur.    Temperature variations are  from a  low of  40 degrees

F (4.4 degrees  C) in  winter to  a high  of 112 degrees F  (44 degrees

C)  in summer.

    There is no detailed classification of the Farm soils, but the surface

of the soil profile consists of a red-brown silt clay loam which is slightly

acid.  Clay occurs at a depth of about 12  in.  (30 cm.).   The depth of

the  clay  subsoil is substantial, extending  far  below any core samples

that, have: been recorded.  The report  issued by the U.S. Army Corps

ol' Engineers in .lai<'iary 197-4. entitled,  "Selected Chemical Character-

istics of Soils,  Forages, and Drainage Water- from  the  Sewage Farm

Serving Melbourne. Australia",  contains much detail on soil and forage


    Many aspects of the  Farm operations  are praiseworthy.   Wide-

spread recognition  of the need to conserve or reuse natural resources

has evolved only in recent years; however,  since 1910 the Farm has

reused wastewater from Melbourne I'or irrigation of pasture land. This

process has converted land  of little potential for agriculture to prime

pasture which now carries over  20,000 cattle and 10,000  sheep.  By

using the natural resources,  water and land, the  Farm  has marketed

more than .270, 000 cattle and I, 500, 000 sheep since 1910.  Taking into

account the equipment  and manpower costs related to livestock pro-

duction,  the net returns from sales presently average over A$500, 000

(US$675, 000) per year and significantly reduce the costs directly associ-

ated with sewage purification at the Farm. Thus, from conservation

and financial  standpoints,  the  Farm represents  a valuable resource

to the residents  of Melbourne.

    Initial diversions from  the  Farm system  to the Board's South

Eastern 'Purification Plant, are scheduled for 1975.  Although this will

result in lower loadings at the Farm in the short-term, growth of popu-

lation and industry tributary  to the Farm will generate additional load-

ings well in excess  of those diverted.


    It is'logical to  consider operations  at the Farm  from two stand-

 points:     first, in relation'to its'  primary  function for wastewater

 treatment  and  second, in terms  of  its  use for livestock production.

 In addition,  approximately three-fourths of the  Farm area is a de-

 clared Wildlife Sanctuary and provides a habitat for a variety of water-

 fowl and other birds and animals.


    In the early years, treatment at the Farm consisted of land fil-

 tration  by irrigation  of pasture land with the underflow collected  in

 drainage channels and discharged  to Port Phillip Bay.  During winter,

 wastewater flows in excess of the land's capacity were held in shallow

 lagoons along the foreshore.   Increasing flows during the intervening

 70  years  have  lead to  increasing  the  size of the Farm from about

 6.000 acres  to nearly 27.000 acres. Of this total, about 17, 000 acres

 are used for some form of treatment,  and the balance is  devoted  to

 dry grazing, roads, buildings, yards, and other purposes.

    The use of  grass  filtration  (overland  flow) during winter months

began about 1928 and made it possible to phase out the shallow lagoons

along the foreshore previously used for winter flows.

    Anaerobic and aerobic lagoons were introduced about 1935.  Lagoons

 can handle higher loadings of organic matter than either of the two other

 methods of treatment, and as a result, their area has been increased

.greatly in recent years to match increases in loadings.  For purposes

 of comparison,  numerical values  for the years ending 30 June 1959

 and 30 June 1971 are listed in Table  A and the monthly variations during

 each year are shown on Figures 1 and  2.

      Table A.  Loadings and  Treatment Processes,  1959 and 1971

         ~~~~~~                        Year Ending 30 June
 Total wastewater volume, milllion
  gallons (US)
Average BODS, milligrams per liter
Pounds per day
Crop irrigation, million gallons (US)
Percent of total
Overland flow, million gallons (US)
Percent of total
Lagoons, million gallons (US)
Percent of total
24, 960
    On arrival at the Farm, the wastewater is distributed to the various

treatment areas through a network of channels.  Three methods of puri-

fication are used.   Short explanations of each method along with perti-

nent comments follow.


      Figure  1:   Areas used for various  treatment methods during 1958/59 at  Werribee Farm
                                                          MARCH   APRIL    MAY

      Fiqure 2:  Areas used  for various treatment methods durinn 1970/71  at Werribee Farm
               AUG     SEPT    OCT     NOV      OCC      JA*      FEB    MARCH    APR:_     MAY     JUNE

   Crop Irrigation (land filtration).  This is the primary method which
is used throughout the summer. The land filtration areas are carefully
prepared pastures,  about 20 acres in exent, and divided- into  50 bays
by low check banks. They are subsoiled, graded evenly and sown with
selected pasture grasses.
    The wastewater  is applied as  in normal flood irrigation.   Every
1H-20 days,  each  block  is covered to a depth of about 4 in.   In all,
about 600 acres  are irrigated each day. The wastewater filters through
the soil and when purified  seeps in«to deep, earth drains.
    The periodic irrigation of pastures with wastes containing a large
proportion of fertilizing  materials promotes a very vigorous growth of
grass.  Rotational.grazing-by she^p., eat-tle> and some horses is essential
to maintain these  pastures in a; condition suitable for continued waste-
water purification.
    Application rates for crpp irrigation are controlled by the ability of
the soil to absorb water, rather than by the strength of the wastewater.
I'Jxamination of  irrigation records from 1935-1971 shows wastewater
irrigation  depths  average about  3.5 feet per year and range between
2. 9 and 4. 2 feet per year.  In a given year, the application rate depends
on the  rainfall pattern and evaporation.  Including annual rainfall, the
land receives more than  5 feet  of water depth per year.   Based on
present wastewater strength,  the average application rate amounts
to 30 Ib. of BOD per acre  each day.
    Crop irrigation is quite effective in reducing  the concentrations of
many chemical  constituents of concern in terms of their effects on the

 receiving waters.   Compounds  of  nitrogen, phosphorous,  and most

 of the heavy metals are reduced dramatically.   Table B shows results

.of analyses made on the incoming wastewater and the average for effluent

 collected from seven  different drainage channels which pick  up the

 underflow from the irrigation areas.
     Table B.  Chemical Characteristics of Untreated Wastewater and
                   Effluent from Crop Irrigation Treatment
Organic nitrogen
Ammoniacal nitrogen
Total Phosphorous
mg/L Concentrations
0. 20
0. 0003
78 •
 Source:  MMBW Analyses on samples collected 17 May 1972.

' Ij Concentrations of nitrogen compounds expressed as N; phosphorous
 ~ compounds as PCX ; all other as the particular element.

    Overland I'low (grass nitration).  This process is used in purifying

 the greater part of  the  normal winter flow when reduced evaporation
 makes crop irrigation impractical.  In this method,  the wastewater is
 first directed into sedimentation tanks, and when the sludge has settled,
 the water is allowed to  flow slowly but continuously over graded areas
 on  which Italian rye grass supplements the natural  herbage to make
 a dense  growth.   The plants act  as a filter in which microorganisms
 absorb the organic matter  in  the wastewater so that by the time it
 reaches the drain, it has the required standard of purity.  The overland
 Row areas are grazed only in the  summer when they are not needed
 for purification purposes.
    Detention times are about 2 days.  In contrast with crop irrigation,
 loading rates are governed by wastewater strength rather than by volume.
 Because of the short detention time, daily loadings rather than long
 term ones are  important. Maximum loadings of about 90 Ib. of BOD per
 acre each day can be handled.  In practice, however, it  is more con-
 venient to control application  by  regulating wastewater volume to the
 overland flow areas.  To keep BOD loading rates within the maximum,
 the volumetric rate  of  application of sedimented wastewater is held
 at about  1 mgd per 50 acres. Experience at theWerribee Farmindicates
 that daily BOD application rates average about 70 Ib. per acre.
    Oxidation  Ponds  Treatment.   This process operates throughout
 the year to handle the balance of the normal flows  which  cannot be
 treated by the other methods and also copes with the wet weather excess
 flows.   During this  treatment,  the  wastes flow slowly through  large
 areas of shallow ponds  where purification is effected by oxygen which
 is partly absorbed from the atmosphere and partly provided by algae
    •                                      /
in the presence of sunlight.                 /
                                  -21-   /

    Oxidation Ponds.   In the  lagoon  treatment process, wastewater

passes through anaerobic lagoons and then  through  aerobic lagoons.

Detention times, relatively short in the former and long in the latter,

depend on the rate of wastewater addition,  but  generally  are  about

one month.  BOD loading rates vary with Wastewater strength and the

volume added.   Experience indicates that  average  loading rates of

about 60  Ib. of BOD per acre per day can be handled in winter,  while

about 100 Ib. per day can be handled in  summer when photosynthetic

activity is  greater due to higher temperatures  and longer hours of


    Treatment Efficiency. As  shown by the annual averages on  Table

C,  the  three treatment processes vary in their ability to  remove

organic matter  and other chemical constituents in  raw wastewater.

The crop irrigation process is the most  effective, but as noted  above,

area loading rates are low and only about 20 percent of the year's

flow at the  Farm  can be treated by this process.   The reductions

it achieves in compounds of nitrogen and phosphorous are particularly-

noteworthy. In raw wastewater given crop irrigation treatment, only

5 pounds  pass through the top  soil and are  found in the effluent.

In contrast,  the comparable values for  overland flow are 40 pounds

of nitrogen  and  65 pounds of  phosphorous, while  for lagoons,  the

values are   65  and 70 pounds respectively.   In terms of nitrogen

removal, crop irrigation is 8 times more effective than overland flow

and 13 times more effective than lagoons.  Similarly, for phosphorous

removal, it is  13  and 14 times more effective, according to MMBW.

    Table C.  Estimated Performance by Treatment Processes
                         on Annual Basis
Percent of total flow
Percent removal
Suspended solids
Total nitrogen
Total phosphorous
E. Coli
Method of Treatment
Crop Irrigation

Overland Flow

99. 5
Lagoon System

    Odors. Sources of odors at the Farm have been studied intensively

several times,  particularly in  1950,  1966,  and 1968-1970.  The 1966

work disclosed that the  "odor potential", based on measured hydrogen

sulphide emissions, was four times greater in winter than in summer,

and that sedimentation and sludge digestion basins, lagoons, and over-

land flow  areas were the  principal sources. Crop irrigation areas

and effluent channels were  found to be relatively insignificant sources.

At each of the major sources, the treatment processes are, or are

prone to be,  anaerobic.  Sedimentation and sludge digestion basins

are open,  and hydrogen  sulphide and other odorous  gases are readily

released to the atmosphere. The anaerobic  lagoons, an inherent part

of the lagoon  system presently used, are economic on space due to

the high BOD loading which they can handle,  but are  the odorous

component.   During winter, the area of anaerobic lagoons is greater

than in  summer, which leads to the release of greater quantities of

hydrogen  sulphide.  In the 1966 tests, this gas was detected over

about half of the area used  for overland flow.

 Livestock Production. Since 1910, the Farm has operated a commercial

 beef enterprise,  producing 20-22 month old  steers and fat cull cows

 for the Melbourne  market.  During  the  past 62 years, over  270, 000

 cattle  have been marketed.  Since 1946, almost the entire cattle output

 has been bred and raised on the Farm. In addition, sheep are brought

 in and fattened on the Farm, and during the same period, more than

.1.5 million have been marketed.

    Early prohibitions against marketing the  cattle  for human con-

 sumption  because  of the incidence of beef measles (cysticercosis)

 were overcome in 1946 by the adoption of the  carcass inspection and

 branding program.  In addition,  the Farm stock has  built  up an im- .

 munity, and market rejection for this reason is rare --29 rejections

 out of over 116,000 cattle marketed since 1946.

    In  summary,  the principal purposes of operating the Werribee

 l-'arm  have been  to renovate the sewage effluents and to recover re-

 sources that  could be converted into cash.  Research for the sake

 of research alone has not been a major factor,  although some elements

 of research have been done to seek out solutions to specific problems.

 The Werribee Farm has  31 test  wells for  monitoring the  influent

 (daily) and the effluent (twice weekly) to  Port Phillip Bay.

    The Board has some information on  soil analyses at certain loca-

 tions.   In certain small areas affected by salt accumulation caused

 by groundwater,  there is some  information.  There  is limited data

 on receiving water quality,  odors,  and potential health hazards,  as

 well as information on  BOD, SS,  COD, pH,  fecal coli,  P,  total  N,

 nitrate, nitrite and Cl.


    In May 1972 a team from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

made an intensive inspection and study of the Werribee Farm

land treatment system.  An important aspect, among others,

was to learn as much as possible about long term responses

of the soil/plant ecosystem to sewage applications. Accordingly,

soil and plant samples were collected  and  analyzed for their

 nutrient and heavy metal contents.

    A report  published by the Corps in January 1974, entitled,

"Selected Chemical Characteristics of Soils,  Forages, and

Drainage  Water  from  the Sewage Farm Serving Melbourne,

Australia",   presents and discusses the findings of this  study.

Specifically, data resulting from the analyses of soil and plant

samples,  from sites under irrigation  for periods  of 48 to 73

years, is discussed  in  relation  to a control sample,  length

of time under irrigation, resultant water quality produced by the

treatment   system,  and expected ranges of constituent concen-

trations found in soils .and plants  from the literature  on the

subject.  A  copy of the Corps report is attached hereto.


    The MMBW has  produced a 16mm film,  entitled  Werribee - In

Harmony with Nature,  showing  the  land treatment operations at the

Werribee Farm.  This is a nontechnical film, 773ft. in length.  Copies

can be purchased from  the  MMBW.  EPA has ordered  10  copies of

this  film,  one for each Regional Office.  Persons wishing  to buy a

copy should address their  inquiries to James B. MacPherson, Manager,

Werribee  Farm,   Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works,  625

Little Collins Street,  Melbourne,  Victoria 3001, Australia.

1. Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, Reports, Publicity
      Brochures,  Newsletters, Staff Newspaper, Unpublished Memoranda,
      Calculations, Lists, Fact Sheets,  Charts, Sewerage Committee
      Notes, Board of Works Notice Papers, and Interviews with Board
      Officials, Employees and Specialists.

2. Survey of Facilities Using Land Application of Wastewater,  Prepared
      by American Public Works Association,  July 1973. No.  EPA-
      430/9-73-006.  National Technical Information Service No.
      PB-227-351-A/S.  U.S. Government Printing Office Stock No.
      5501-00666; Cat. No. EP2.2.-W28/4.

3. Article,  Waste into  Wealth, Water Spectrum 1972.

4. Report, Program for Development of a Master Plan for Water Quality
      Management at the  Board's Farm, March 1973, by Caldwell
      Conriell Engineers.

5. Data and statistics from certain Principal Persons Interviewed.

6. Data and statistics from Dr.  Thomas D.  Hinesly, University of

7. Notes from personal observations during site visits.
1.  Memorandum from EPA Deputy Administrator to RA's, Nov. 1,  1974.

2.  Report, U.S. Army  Corps of Engineers, January 1974 "Selected
      Chemical Characteristics of Soils,  Forages, and Drainage Water
      from the Sewage Farm Serving Melbourne, Australia".

•SUBJECT.::  Land Treatment
DATE:    November 1, 1974
FROM:     Deputy Administrator I si John Quarles
TO:       Regional Administrators

             The purpose of this memorandum is  to express my concern that
          EPA must do  a better job in assuring that  land treatment is given
          full and adequate consideration as a possible method for  municipal
          sewage treatment in projects funded with Federal grants.

             Land application of wastewaters is practiced successfully and
          extensively in the United States.  Many land treatment systems
          have been in continuous  use since  1900.   It is  apparent  from this
          long-term experience and documented research work that land treat-
          merit technology is a viable  alternative to be considered  as part of
          waste management systems.

 "••.-.      In section 201 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act
          Amendments of 1972,  it declares that:

                 "Waste treatment management plans and practices shall
                 provide for the application of the best practical waste
                 treatment technology before any discharge into receiving
                 waters, including ^reclaiming and recycling of water, and
                 confined disposal of pollutants so they will not migrate to
                 cause water or other environmental pollution and  shall
                 provide for consideration of advance waste treatment

             Pursuant to section 304(d)(2), which directs EPA to publish in-
          formation on alternative treatment management techniques  and systems
          available to implement section 201, the document "Alternative Waste
          Management Techniques for  Best Practicable Waste Treatment" was
          published.  Therein it  considers land application as a viable
          alternative for best practicable waste treatment.

             In addition, the Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Regulations
          which apply to all projects subject to best practicable treatment
          state that:

                 "All feasible alternative waste management systems
                 shall be initially identified.   These alternatives should
                 include systems discharging to receiving waters,  systems
                 using land or surface disposal techniques, and systems
                 employing the reuse of wastewater".
EPA Form 1320-6 (Rev. 6-72)

                               - 2 -
    The above requirements  shall be met for all projects awarded
after .June 30, 1974.  This means that land treatment must be con-
sidered in the basic selection of method for waste treatment.

    I urge that you ascertain that your regional review of appli-
cation  for construction of publicly-owned treatment works require that
land application be  considered  as an alternative waste management
system.  If  it can be demonstrated that land treatment is the most
cost-effective alternative,  is consistent with the environmental as-
sessment, and in other aspects  satisfies applicable tests, the Region
should insist that land treatment be used  and  should refuse to  fund
projects using other systems of waste treatment.

    Your director of Water Programs Division has received the draft
document "Evaluation of Land Application  Systems".  This document
should be utilized during the review process.  Additional assistance
can be obtained by contacting the Municipal Construction Division
(OWPO), the Municipal Technology Division (ORD), or the Robert
S. Kerr Laboratory (ORD).

    In order to promulgate proper consideration of land treatment
systems by  future grant applicants I suggest that the Regional Office
provide opportunity for public  awareness of  land treatment  tech-
nology.  As  an example, Region III is planning a two day symposium
November  20-21,  1974 at  the  University of  Delaware  to  highlight
land application technology.  The idea for the symposium originated
in- the Regional Office  and was planned cooperatively between the
regional staff and Office of Water Program Operations headquarters
staff.  The  objective of the symposium is to clarify the technical and
policy  issues involved and to chart directions for future decisions
on land treatment techniques.    The symposium will provide useful
information  to over  300 engineers, scientists, public officials and
private citizens.   This technique or a similar one could be used by
your region  to emphasize consideration  of land treatment.