Dirty water at Coogee Beach sees Berejiklian announce $2.5m purity plan
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Dirty water at Coogee Beach sees Berejiklian announce $2.5m purity plan

Funding for an as-yet-to-be finalised plan to divert stormwater to sewer pipes before it flows into the ocean at Coogee beach - the fourth water quality project there - was announced on Saturday, in the second-most marginal NSW Liberal Party seat, two months ahead of the state election.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin and Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith announced "up to" $2.5 million to take the "first flush" of stormwater via sewer pipes to Malabar.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Member for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith are seen prior to addressing media at Coogee Beach.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Member for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith are seen prior to addressing media at Coogee Beach.Credit:AAP

Mr Notley-Smith, who holds the seat of Coogee by a margin of about three per cent, said "it's a problem that's been kicked down the road far too many times".

"Stormwater that pours into the ocean at both ends of the beach has been an enormous concern to locals for many, many years," Mr Notley-Smith said.

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"It won't stop all stormwater from entering the ocean [at Coogee] ... We're looking at getting the first flush [the first major rainfall after a dry period ] .. which is the most contaminated [water, that] will be diverted to Malabar."

Asked if the project was just pushing pollution problems into Malabar, Mr Notley-Smith said the water quality had "improved remarkably" at Malabar since a similar solution was installed there.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith at Coogee Beach.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith at Coogee Beach.Credit:AAP

Pollution from stormwater that drains directly onto the northern end of Coogee beach has at times formed a black creek. In 2016 the NSW government's beach monitoring service, Beachwatch, downgraded Coogee's water quality from "good" to "poor", making it one of only four NSW ocean beaches  - Terrigal, Avoca, Coogee and Malabar - that had a poor water quality rating.

Anthem Mai, 1, playing where the storm water drain runs onto the north end of Coogee Beach.

Anthem Mai, 1, playing where the storm water drain runs onto the north end of Coogee Beach.Credit:Louise Kennerley

The 2018 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage state of the beaches report found Coogee's water had improved and was rated "good" but Malabar beach remained on the worst grading for a Sydney beach - "poor". Neighbouring Maroubra beach, while still rated "good", also recorded declining water quality in 2018.

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Swimming sites across the Sydney region have seen improved water quality in 2018, with 90 per cent graded "good" or "very good", up six per cent on 2017.

Ms Berejiklian said making this funding commitment gave the project's working group, who have been discussing fixes to the pollution issue for 18 months, "the assurance that they can come up with the best technical solution and not worry about the money".

The project is expected to be finished sometime in early 2020.

Before Mr Notley-Smith won the seat of Coogee at the 2011 election, it had been held by Labor since 1974.

Nigel Gladstone is The Sydney Morning Herald's data journalist.

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