Water Minister opens biosolids plant

The Minister for Water, the Honourable Peter Walsh, MLA, today officially opened the $77 million biosolids thermal drying facility at the Black Rock environmental precinct in Connewarre.

This morning's ribbon-cutting completes a project that has been more than 10 years in the making.

Image shows Water Minister Peter Walsh and Plenary Group Associate Director Carl Retschko cutting a green ribbon to officially open the biosolids drying facility.

Water Minister Peter Walsh with Plenary Group Associate Director Carl Retschko officially open the biosolids drying facility.


What are biosolids?

The treatment of sewage relies on billions of micro-organisms. Biosolids — mainly composed of the dead bodies of these tiny microbes — are a by-product.

Every day of the year, the Black Rock Water Reclamation Plant treats around 50 million litres of domestic and commercial sewage from the greater Geelong region and creates almost 140 tonnes of biosolids.

Biosolids are nutrient-rich and make valuable fertiliser, but must be first dried and turned into pellets.


Treating biosolids

The need for a solution to treat biosolids arose following a multi-million dollar upgrade to the Black Rock plant in the late 1990s.

An interim arrangement was reached with Melbourne Water to transport biosolids to the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee. Since then, nearly 500,000 tonnes of biosolids have been trucked to Werribee for drying before being used as fertiliser.


Finding a solution

A group of community members and industry professionals was convened in 2004 and determined criteria for a world-class treatment facility. The facility needed to:

  • be fully-enclosed
  • not omit odours beyond Barwon Water's boundary
  • have a small environmental footprint
  • be sympathetic with the coastal landscape
  • produce a high quality product.

The biosolids drying facility meets all these criteria. Biosolids from all of Barwon Water's reclamation plants are sent to the facility where they are dried, pelletised and made available as fertiliser.


Forming a partnership

The biosolids drying facility was built by the Plenary Group and will be operated by the Water Infrastructure Group.

The $77 million project was delivered within the Partnerships Victoria framework, an initiative of the Victorian Government.


Closing the loop

The new facility sits alongside the existing reclamation plant and the Class A recycled water plant (currently under construction), completing the sewage treatment cycle.

In addition to treating sewage and its by-products on one site, Barwon Water can now boast:

  • a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting, storing and treating biosolids
  • a decrease in the land needed to dry biosolids
  • a product for beneficial re-use.

This approach meets our commitment to a 'no waste' sewerage system that benefits our customers, the community and the environment.

  Latest news blog