Residents in West Tamar say they have become fed up with "bandaid" fixes to the Tamar River's ailing health and have a message for politicians: "stop putting sh-- in the river".
The health of the Tamar remained the most pressing issue for Bass voters, but infrastructure funding and TasWater's long-term plans for the Ti Tree Bend Sewage Treatment Plant would not stop treated effluent ending up in the river - it would just reduce it.
A quirk of Launceston's sewerage system is that it uses stormwater to dilute sewage during heavy rainfall events, which heightens the amount of faecal matter flowing into the river.
TasWater pointed to a Tamar estuary report from last year that found 4 per cent of the contribution to enterococci loads - a faecal contamination indicator - was a result of sewage treatment plants. A further 26 per cent was from combined sewer overflows during heavy rain.
The remaining 70 per cent was runoff from adjacent farmland, forests and other land forms.
TasWater's short-term goal was for 85 per cent of its effluent volume to comply with EPA discharge limits, and 97 per cent by 2037 via targeted infrastructure upgrades across the network.
These goals were worrying for long-term Tamar estuary campaigner and former waste management worker Barry Blenkhorn, who said the river would never recover if the current system was maintained.
"As usual, it's just a lot of talk and no action," he said.
"It's a pity that we're putting another $100 million into more cosmetic fixes that will keep piping sewage into the river.
"We've talked about it for years and years, but unless we do something big, then it's just pushing the solution further down the road.
"We need to stop putting sh-- in the river."
Mr Blenkhorn reiterated his call for a tertiary sewerage treatment plant to be built away from the Tamar River - a solution with costs that could run into the billions.
But with TasWater's statewide 10-year infrastructure plan put at $1.8 billion, Mr Blenkhorn said the cost of a new plant would - in the long run - give value for money and fix Launceston's sewerage problem once and for all, allowing the Tamar to recover its health.
"It starts with $1 million for studies and to find the location that could service the whole of the Tamar Valley. The Eastern Treatment Plant in Melbourne is big enough to service the entire Tasmanian population, we could just look at their plans and scale something modern for our region," he said.
There are about two dozen sewage treatment plants within the Tamar catchment that had treated effluent being discharged in the river - from a plant at St Mary's in the east, to Deloraine in the west, and up the Tamar to Beauty Point.
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Septic collection was also treated at Ti Tree Bend.
Swan Point resident Russell Hogarth remembered swimming in the North Esk River near Scotch College and in the Tamar 70 years ago without getting sick, when Launceston's population was far smaller and flushing toilets were not yet the norm in households.
He said there were plenty of farms up the river in those days, and believed the biggest change to hurt the river's health over the decades was the sewerage system.
"This system we have now might have worked 50 or 60 years ago when the population was much smaller, but the population is growing so quickly that by the time they make these cosmetic fixes to the system, it will be out of date," Mr Hogarth said.
In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election - and just a month after floods caused widespread damage to Launceston further decimating the health of the Tamar - then-TasWater chairman Miles Hampton made strong comments about the imminent challenges facing Tasmania's water and sewerage systems.
At the time, only one of the state's 79 sewage treatment plants achieved 100 per cent compliance with sewage discharge limits and 'do not consume' water alerts were in place on multiple Tasmanian communities.
Since then, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced $94.6 million to tackle priorities identified in a report from Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce, including projects to limit agricultural run off.
The Tasmanian government also became a shareholder in TasWater in January to help deliver $320 million of stormwater and sewerage upgrades in Launceston by 2026.
A spokesperson for TasWater said Ti Tree Bend had already undergone $10 million in upgrades to its solids handling process, and they were in discussions with the EPA over discharge levels before progressing with more upgrades.
"TasWater has recently proposed target discharge levels for Ti Tree Bend (and the other STPs in this part of the Tamar) to the EPA," he said.
"This will enable us to meet the State Policy on Water Quality Management at these locations.
"TasWater is awaiting feedback. EPA feedback will enable us to proceed with planning with much more certainty."
TasWater claimed its Ti Tree Bend effluent discharges into the Tamar - from outfalls north of the treatment plant and near University Way at Newnham - "typically" meet EPA compliance during dry weather.
When asked about TasWater's support for a new tertiary sewerage treatment plant, the spokesperson referred to the 2018-37 long-term strategic plan that included 181 projects that largely involve its existing network.
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Bass Labor MHR Ross Hart said he was open to hearing ideas - from TasWater or elsewhere - about improving Launceston's sewerage network.
"If somebody wants to pitch to me as the member for Bass a project which involves federal funding to enable us to do it quicker, I'm open to making those representations," he said.
Bass Liberal candidate Bridget Archer said the federal government had a role to play in future upgrades, and the City Deal was the best vehicle to progress those talks.