Drainage storm

A crossing guard jumps back to avoid a splash from a passing car: a two-step Craig Rothleitner says is a dangerous workplace.

STORMWATER expert Craig Rothleitner finally got a dangerous flooding problem fixed on Riseley Street in Applecross last week, but he’s still got a bee in his bonnet about Perth’s drains.

Mr Rothleitner told the Herald he’d been piping up about the blocked drain at the corner of Riseley Street and Drew Road for more than a year over fears for the safety of school children and the elderly crossing guards that help them across the busy road.

After each downpour a pretty decent puddle develops in front of the crossing, and the guards look like bootscooters each time they jump back to avoid the splash from a passing car and rush forward to try and make the crossing safe for kids.

“Now, these ladies who are in the later stage of life, absolutely should not be having to work in these conditions,” Mr Rothleitner said.

Wardens

Former councillor Robert Willis said he’d also noted the problem with concern: “Many elected members and staff must drive past this site and nothing appears to be happening to make this site safe for children crossing the road or the traffic wardens,” Mr Willis said.

However, not long after this the Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association took up the case, and after a couple of their emails to Melville council, Mr Rothleitner said a contractor rolled up in a big truck and spent the morning sucking out the drains, as well as a couple in front of his nearby house.

Despite being happy about the cleared drain, Mr Rothleitner says the problem underlines the poor state of Perth’s drainage system, which each year dumps millions of litres of polluted stormwater into our lakes and ocean.

He’s invested years developing a basket filter which he claims catches more than 90 per cent of the waste that goes down a drain and can be cleaned for a fraction of the price of the current method, but says he can’t get authorities interested.

He reckons partly that’s because its cheaper for land developers to put in a bog standard drain before handing over the infrastructure to councils, partly because there’s big money involved for companies the clean drains, but also because admitting to the issue would expose what he believes is the biggest infrastructure “scandal” in the state’s history.

“Because our drains are open 24/7 what happens is that this infrastructure is transforming our rainfall into contaminating our groundwater,” Mr Rothleitner said.

“Rain is the Earth’s only groundwater replenisher.”

Mr Rothleitner also pointed to studies in the United States which found eutrophication in stormwater drains provided a perfect environment for toxic algal blooms and could lead to health impacts on nearby residents.

Mr Rothleitner says the filter system developed by his company ARI Water Solutions has been tested by the CSIRO and Curtin University, while he’s also in the process of negotiating a trial in Singapore, a world-leader in stormwater management. He says he can’t understand why locally he can’t get any traction.

By STEVE GRANT

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