The protest group fighting a resort proposal at Gnarabup has called for an independent audit of the hamlet’s wastewater treatment plant amid concerns about its most recent results. Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Astrid Serventy said the latest review of the treatment plant found nitrate, arsenic, lead and manganese exceeding triggers, as well as elevated levels of bacteria enterococci, found in faecal matter, detected at four near-shore sampling points just south of Gnarabup and Back Beach. “Elevated nitrate, ammonia, total nitrogen and total phosphorous generally exceeded the conservatively adopted groundwater investigation events in all four wells over all quarterly groundwater monitoring events,” the operator’s 2021-22 annual environmental report also noted. Ms Serventy said she had brought the matter to Environment Minister Reece Whitby’s attention as well as to local politicians asking for urgent action. The concerns follow a major State bodyboarding competition recently held at Gas Bay which the protest group says saw surfers competing in effluent-rich waves. The Water Corporation, which operates the plant, and regulators the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, were quick to say the site met acceptable parameters. However, Preserve Gnarabup said commercial operators would be subject to independent audits, and the complex and allegedly inadequate reports filed by the Water Corporation necessitated an outside review. Ms Serventy said the group and the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association had an independent hydrogeologist review the site’s past three annual reports. “The annual reports are so badly compiled, and the bore systems so inadequate, that there is no way Water Corporation or regulator DWER can possibly know how clean the waste that is leaving the plant and moving into the ground and ocean really is,” she said. “The plant has been registered by DWER as non-compliant with its environmental licence to operate since 2016.” A Water Corporation spokesperson said the plant “meets environmental conditions prescribed by DWER”. “Wastewater is treated using a natural organic process (‘activated sludge’), commonly used throughout the State, so natural variability is normal and to be expected,” the spokesperson said. “We assure the community that historical and ongoing regulatory monitoring has demonstrated that Gnarabup WWTP is not adversely impacting the ocean. “The site operates in accordance with its environmental licence, providing a high level of treatment and environmental monitoring.” A Water Corporation-commissioned report found higher bacterial readings in shoreline samples were unlikely to be associated with the Gnarabup plant. A DWER spokesperson said 2021-22 sampling of microbial concentrations close to the shire were reviewed as “fair to very good water quality” under the national framework. “DWER will continue to oversee monitoring from Gas Bay and the treatment plant to ensure that water quality is maintained,” they said. Shire planning and regulatory services manager Matt Cuthbert said the Shire was committed to caring for the coastline and providing healthy and safe environments. “It’s both the Shire’s and the community’s expectation that the Gas Bay facility meets environmental and human health objectives and is properly managed by (the) Water Corporation,” he said. However, he referred concerned residents to the Water Corporation for complaints. Surfing WA chief executive Mark Lane said he wasn’t aware of any water quality issues.