Ecoteam Blog

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Ecoteam State Finalists in SafeWork NSW Awards

SafeWork NSW Awards state finalists 2017

Working in the professional services industry has many challenges, in particular, managing the safety of our workers, both in the office, travelling remotely and working on construction sites. Ecoteam takes the safety of our workers very seriously, we all have family and friends to get home to at the end of the day.

 

Following on from our win in the Workplace Safety category at the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Awards in 2016, Ecoteam were nominated as State Finalists in the ‘Excellence in Workplace Safety Culture – Small Business’ at the 2017 SafeWork NSW Awards in October.

 

Lise Bolton (Managing Director) and Stefanie Stanley (Business Manager) traveled to Sydney to attend the 2017 SafeWork NSW Awards ceremony. Although we were unsuccessful on the night, Ecoteam are very proud to be in the Top 3 businesses in NSW to be recognised as having an exceptional safety culture.

Our Tips

Our advice to other businesses and systems managers looking to maintain and enhance their safety culture is:

  • Ensure there are opportunities to discuss non-conformities, near misses and corrective actions.
  • Share your knowledge and admit your mistakes – encourage an open and inclusive workplace.
  • Be on the look out for ways to improve the safety system – there is always an opportunity to make things better; operate with the attitude of Continuous Improvement.
  • Include all of your staff in risk assessments and finding solutions to problems – your workers have the best insight into the work they do every day and can offer simple and effective solutions you may have never thought of!
  • If a worker approaches you with an issue or opportunity for improvement – this is a moment to celebrate, investigate the issue and provide a timely response – this will let all workers know you take safety seriously.

These are the foundations for an award winning safety culture and we challenge you to have an ongoing commitment to WHS .

 

Congratulations to all of the SafeWork NSW 2017 Award winners, you are a credit to your industries.

Lise Bolton and Stefanie Stanley at the SafeWork NSW Awards

If you would like to know more about our Safety Systems, please contact Stefanie Stanley, Business Manager on (02) 6621 5123.

 

Ecoteam Steps Up Business Systems to Meet Civil Construction Demand

lise bolton, keith bolton, aaron tailer, TAFE training ssuccess stories

Stefanie Stanley, Business Manager, has recently completed training with TAFE NSW to capitalise on local opportunities for civil construction projects, to manage risk and work safely.

To capitalise on local civil construction opportunities, ECOTEAM invested in a tailored TAFE NSW training program, to help Business Manager and Board Advisor Stefanie Stanley complete a part-qualification in Civil Construction Management to assist ECOTEAM upgrade their business systems to meet local civil construction industry opportunities and demand.

“Our business was tendering for highway construction and bridge infrastructure projects and the skills and knowledge I acquired at TAFE NSW helped to overhaul and boost our business systems to meet this need,” she said.

“It was a very practical, hands-on course and we were able to apply the theories learnt directly into our business and systems and also benchmark these against industry standards. It gave us the knowledge and ability to lift our systems accordingly to specific industry requirements,” she said.

As a result of the knowledge gained in the TAFE training, ECOTEAM was nominated and went on to win the 2016 Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Excellence Workplace Health and Safety award. “Through the awards our company’s profile has been boosted and this is a direct result of working with TAFE NSW,” she said.

Read more and sign up for the TAFE newsletter here.

 

Lismore’s Green Army to help Vulnerable Koalas

Green Army group to help Lismore Koalas

Green Army supervisor Lucas Salmon from EnviTE NSW with team members (l-r) Joanne Hetherington, Ethan Wakely, Noah Quinn, Oliver von der Heidt, Dylan Irwin, Kirby Petty, Tashi Matthews and Abbey Mayne.

A new Green Army team has started work restoring koala habitat in the north-west of the Lismore Local Government Area (LGA).

The Green Army is a hands-on environmental program that provides young people aged 17 to 24 with skills, training and experience in environmental management while helping to protect habitat for threatened species like koalas.

This program contributes to the delivery of Lismore City Council’s Biodiversity Management Strategy, which seeks to improve the natural environment in the Lismore LGA and also provide skills and pathways to employment for young people.

Green Army Supervisor Lucas Salmon from EnviTE NSW described the work as “critical” as the koala is listed as vulnerable to extinction under NSW legislation.

Lismore is home to one of the few urban koala populations in the state, and a relatively healthy population throughout the rest of the LGA. Nevertheless, the pressures of disease, habitat loss and degradation, road traffic and dog attacks are inflicting a heavy toll. Continuing to restore habitat through tree planting and weed removal is essential to ensuring these local koala populations can thrive and survive into the future.

The Green Army team will be working for the next 20 weeks planting around 1200 trees and undertaking extensive weed removal around Nimbin, Terania Creek and The Channon. This is the second team in as many years to undertake this work locally, with the first team focusing on the south-east of the LGA.

These projects are supported by the Australian Government’s Green Army Programme and Lismore City Council, EnviTE NSW and Conservation Volunteers Australia.
 

Article via Lismore City Council.

Ecoteam supports the Tuckurimba Koalas and Friends of the Koala and you can too by purchasing the 2017 Tuckurimba Koala Gardens Calendar. As well as supporting the Tuckurimba Koalas, $2 from every calendar sold goes to the Lismore based Friends of the Koala, a not-for-profit organisation supporting the vulnerable Koala in our region.

 

 

Surgeflow100 Dosing Siphon Prototype

What’s in the barrel?SurgeFlow100 Dosing Siphon Test

Over the past year, Ecoteam has been working with a plastic moulding company to commercialise our SurgeFlow100 Dosing Siphon, an electricity free pump with no moving parts.

The prototype arrived before Christmas (a fantastic early pressie!). We couldn’t wait to get back after the holidays to test it!

We are happy to say that the prototype worked! With a few tweaks to the sump and fitting connections, it will be perfect.

Keep your eyes and ears open for more info as we move towards product release in 2017!

For more info on the SurgeFlow100 Dosing Siphon please refer to our products page.

Lismore Christmas Tree for 2016

Another Recycled Gem!

recycled lismore christmas tree made out of painted tyres 2016

 

Lismore is the proud owner of another recycled Christmas tree in 2016 – a gift from Lismore City Council to the community.

The recycled Christmas tree made by Council staff in 2015 was such a resounding success that management and staff thought it should become an annual tradition.

While last year’s tree was made of recycled bicycles, this year’s CBD centrepiece on the corner of Keen and Magellan streets is made of old car tyres and hub caps painted by Council staff and their families.

Meanwhile, the bicycle Christmas tree has found a new home in Clunes – a gift to village residents and a chance for visitors entering the Local Government Area to get a taste of Lismore’s personality.

“We love the idea of doing a tree each year made of recycled materials,” General Manager Gary Murphy said.

“The trees represent everything Lismore is about. They are sustainable, resourceful, colourful and quirky. We think it suits the personality of our city and our region, and judging from last year’s positive reaction, the community agrees.”

The 5.5 metre recycled Christmas tree was made with around 150 car tyres, 100 hub caps, 80 litres of paint donated by Dulux, almost half a tonne of steel, 120 1.25L plastic bottles to form the star, four bales of aluminium cans (a total of 88,000 cans) with recycled aluminium bows as presents around the base of the tree, around 40 old lights from the Lismore Airport runway, and a lot of love and Christmas spirit.

Adding to this year’s decorations is a new Merry Christmas sign at Lismore City Hall, which was painted by children at the Lismore City Council display during this year’s North Coast National.

“Council doesn’t always get things right, but we love our community and do our very best to make it a great place to live. Christmas gives us a chance to share our Christmas spirit and give something back from the heart,” Gary said.

“The tree is our way of saying thank you to the community. It is the extraordinary people who live here that truly make Lismore great – and we wish every one of them a very happy and safe Christmas.”

Ecoteam are very thankful to be a part of the Lismore community, and we thank Lismore City Council’s approach to sustainability.

We wish everyone a very happy holiday! And looking forward to the Lismore Christmas Tree for 2017!

 

 

Wastewater Feasibility Assessment

Wastewater Management in Non-Sewered Areas: Subdivisions and Rural Developments

Author: Cameron Hill, Environmental Engineer & Wastewater Management Specialist.

 the EcoCell fits into the landsacpe sewage treatment

 

Wastewater generation is something we cannot avoid. Everyone uses fresh water for bathing, drinking and washing, with much of this, now waste-water, going down the drain and into the sewer system for treatment at a municipal Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).

But what if there is no sewer? Where does your wastewater go then?

Many households on rural lots have what are commonly referred to as ‘onsite wastewater management systems’. The most basic of these systems is a septic tank and absorption trenches. The more complex systems include aerated treatment and irrigated systems, powered by electricity.

Onsite Sewage Feasibility Studies

So what are onsite sewage feasibility studies? They are an assessment of a site’s capability to handle wastewater disposal in an environmentally safe way, and help determine density of development and lot size requirements and locations.

Many existing rural communities were developed during a time where feasibility assessments and other planning processes were not considered. This has resulted in excessively small blocks and dense populations trying to dispose effluent in a confined area. As well as space issues, the wastewater is often only treated by a septic tank, resulting in:

  • Significant hydraulic overload of soils,
  • nutrient export to the environment, and
  • health issues from effluent contact due to overland flow of failing disposal systems.

As a Council Planning Tool

A feasibility study helps councils to determine the appropriateness of a development application for a subdivision or multiple occupancy to ensure land use is consistent with the land capabilities. They are one of the planning tools Council’s use to ensure sustainable development in unsewered areas.

Primary considerations that need to be assessed in a feasibility study include:

  • Sensitive receptors
  • Site & soil characteristics
  • Nutrient loading
  • Disposal of effluent

 Sensitive Receptors

Sensitive receptors refers to anything that can be adversely impacted by the disposal of wastewater. Typical sensitive receptors include permanent watercourses, groundwater, gullies, dams, groundwater extraction bores and contaminated sites. They are sensitive due to effluent either degrading water quality by the introduction of nutrients, degrading water security by contamination with pathogens or allowing the mobilisation of contaminants in the soil.

Sensitive receptors are dealt with during a feasibility study by ensuring adequate separation distances, or stipulating minimum treatment objectives to ensure positive environmental outcomes. Separation distances are typically done in GIS software, which allows the mapping of features and producing buffers around the features of a minimum distance. This gives the area of land in the development where they cannot consider for onsite sewage disposal.

Site & Soil Characteristics

Further to the separation distances, site characteristics are often the next issue which needs to be addressed. With the need to provide a sustainable and low energy approach to wastewater treatment in rural areas, some councils require it to be shown that a gravity disposal system will be able to effectively operate in every lot of the development. This requires assessing the site characteristics for:

  • Soil categories in potential land application areas, requiring extraction of boreholes and assessing soil structure, texture, pH and dispersion at a minimum.
  • Steep slopes, as gravity disposal is only optimal on slopes that are less than 15% due to the potential for effluent seepage and slumping occurring from constantly saturated soils.
  • Need for gravity operation i.e. will the house site allow effluent to be disposed via gravity downslope, without encroaching in buffer areas?
  • Shallow soils or depth to water tables, is the soil profile adequate for further polishing and removal of nutrients from disposed effluent?
  • Is sufficient area available in each lot to deal with hydraulic and nutrient load to council and guideline standards. 

Nutrient Loading

Nutrient loadings are considered next as part of the development. A ‘generic’ household is allocated to each potential lot the developer wishes to produce. Each of these lots will produce a certain amount of wastewater nutrients. Most councils allow an export of some nutrients, with any additional nutrients requiring that the development should be reduced in size, or minimum treatment performance is required for each allotment. The wastewater volumes help to dictate the hydraulic area requirements, i.e. the absolute minimum area the effluent should be disposed over. 

Effluent Disposal

Which finally brings us to disposing of the effluent. We have found out the areas where we can’t dispose effluent, we have found what the soils are, how much nutrients we are introducing into the system and estimated wastewater volumes. We now apply nutrient and water balance models to find the average wastewater disposal area for the ‘generic’ household per allotment. This step allows the size of disposal areas to be designed likely locations and reserve areas, and identifies any further treatment requirements or reductions in development size.

Why do we need to consider all of these things?

Basically it comes down to legislation.

  • Legislative background
    • AS1547
    • Australian water recycling guidelines
    • Individual council requirements
      • Distance to features
      • Treatment performances
      • Reserve areas
  • Mitigating risk
    • AS1547 method
    • Site constraints – mitigation methods
    • Land Application systems – limitations 

Project Application

Ecoteam recently conducted an onsite sewage feasibility assessment for a proposed rural landsharing community development in Larnook NSW. There currently exist many multiple occupancy developments in the area.

For this development, a site assessment was conducted and soils, watercourses, slopes and landforms and groundwater were considered for the development. In terms of onsite wastewater management, the site was fairly unconstrained by soil, with most soils around the development consisting of deep silty loam topsoils over sandy clay subsoil horizons.

It was found during the site assessment that many permanent and intermittent watercourses surrounded and crossed the property, fed by gullies and upslope catchments. This required excluding much of the “developable area” due to council considerations to keep development away from these water concentrating areas. This was an initially concerning when undertaking the desktop analysis, but onsite inspections realised that much of these areas were unfit for effluent disposal anyway due to steep slopes and poor soils.

The site assessment also noted the landform and locations of steep slopes. As the property had long, but narrow ridges between watercourses, many of the sideslopes were too steep to be considered for wastewater disposal, further restricting the area available. This resulted in dwelling locations being confined to the long ridgelines.

The constraints identified by the onsite sewage feasibility study could result in a development being disbanded due to decreased profits or over investment. This was not the case for this development. While it was determined that properties would require secondary treatment to meet nutrient export requirements, the total number of dwellings was not restricted below what was allowable.

The report prepared for council summarised the critical information for their consideration, and were submitted along with many other planning reports of: bushfire assessment, preliminary contaminated land assessments, preliminary flora and fauna surveys, preliminary surveying plans and designs and town planning applications.

Summary

The feasibility of wastewater treatment on rural lots in the Northern Rivers of NSW in closely controlled by Councils to protect environmental and human health.  The feasibility of on-site sewage management needs to be considered early on in the planning process, alongside other site characteristics like bushfire risk, contaminated soils and presence of protected flora and fauna species. Options for on site sewage disposal systems include the EcoCell Septic System and aerated water treatment systems like the Krystel Kleer.

If you would like more information about on-site sewage feasibility assessments, please call our office on (02) 6621 5123 and we will be happy to help.

Lismore Business Breakfast Wrap Up – November 2016

Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Staff

business breakfast lismore chamber of commerce and industry palate at the gallery

How do I manage my employment needs?

As business owners and managers, we are always keeping an eye on the bottom line, making sure we have sufficient cash flow and planning for the future. But there’s something not on your balance sheet, and it’s the most important thing of all – the skills and abilities, an incredible potential of your current staff.

 

Did you know, that for an employee on $60,000 salary, it will cost you $29,000 in recruitment and training costs? And, if they happen leave within 12 months, you can add an additional $6,000 in annual leave and performance management costs. It makes sense to do everything you can to retain your employees.

 

There was also discussion today about the major infrastructure projects happening in our region – being the Pacific Highway upgrade and the ongoing Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment. These projects will require thousands of staff and have the potential to bring many families and workers to the area long term.

 

This has many benefits (to the service area and subcontractors in particular) and may also have some negatives (luring your current civil and technical staff to the major infrastructure projects). It is important to remember that with the ramp up – also comes the ramp down, so keep an eye on your business strategy to ensure you don’t get caught out when the boom ends in a few years’ time. Focus on revenue sources outside the major projects to ensure the long term sustainability of your business and cash flow.

 

What if I need to replace staff or recruit additional team members?

If you do need to replace staff (even the best employees leave at some point), there are a number of options available to you.

  • Contact North Coast Employment to find long term employees- one contact for the seven major employment providers on the North Coast (including disability employment services)
  • Employ Temporary Staff for 2-3 days or 2-3 weeks – agencies like SilverTemp or Complete Staff Solutions
  • Advertise on Seek – for a $300 fee you will have more applicants than you could possibly imagine, and you can rank and score each applicant to help narrow down who you will interview.

How do I attract more applicants?

Joanne McLaughlin, panelist at today’s breakfast, suggested that you include one sentence in your ads: “Parents returning to work are encouraged to apply”.  We have recently hired our fabulous Accounts & Admin Manager, returning to work following maternity leave, and we can not sing her praises enough. Our new staff member has extensive industry experience in big business and brings a wealth of skills and knowledge to our company.

 

Another suggestion was to offer ‘Flexible Work Options’ in your job advertisement. Flexible work options are an excellent recruitment AND retention strategy. It is important to establish the parameters of flexible work at the start of the contract, including work hours and working from home arrangements.

 

The Queensland Government website has some excellent information that will start you on the right track. Flexible does not mean ‘free for all’ so make sure the parameters of your arrangement are clear from the outset.

 

And finally, make your advertisement interesting and appealing. Have a bit of fun and let your personality shine.

Today’s Business Breakfast Panel

  • Joanne McLaughlin, Human Resources Coordinator, Multitask.
  • Kath Paton, Nortec, representing the North Coast Employment Accord.
  • Jock McNamara, EPIC Assist.

 

Thank you to the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry for another fantastic event. Sign up to the LCCI newsletter to keep up to date on industry news and to be notified of upcoming events.  Thanks also to Palate at the Gallery for the wonderful breakfast, the mushroom was delectable!

 

The next LCCI event is ‘Business After Hours’ hosted by ETC (employment, training & community). We will be meeting at the Lismore City Hall on Wednesday November 23, starting at 530pm.

 

See you there!

Warm Regards,

Stefanie Stanley, Business Manager.

 

Doors Open SCU

Environment, Science and Engineering @ SCU

doors-open-scu-image

 

Check out the Program here: doors-open-program-guide

Make sure you get along to ‘Doors Open @ SCU‘ next Tuesday 8 November from 4pm.

We are looking forward to ‘Sharks in my Swimming Pool’ and the Lego Robot Club!

See you there!

 

 

Ecoteam Success at 2016 Lismore Business Excellence Awards

Manufacturing and Innovation and Workplace safety

Ecoteam was awarded the Manufacturing and Innovation Business of the Year for their industry leadership and championing of innovative and sustainable technologies for environmental challenges. Ecoteam are specialists in wastewater treatment technologies and have designed wastewater treatment systems in regional NSW, Borneo and Papua New Guinea.

Ecoteam also won the Workplace Safety Award sponsored by SafeWork NSW. Ecoteam works in rural and remote locations, and in high risk environments containing asbestos, soil contamination and untreated wastewater. Ecoteam staff all have families to get home to at the end of the day and take safety very seriously. Ecoteam will now go on to compete with other regional finalists in the SafeWork NSW State Awards.

Ecoteam Business Manager, Stefanie Stanley, summed up Ecoteam’s success, “Thank you to the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and all the event sponsors. It was an excellent night and really gave us the chance to celebrate the achievements of the Lismore business community. Thank you also to our customers, your trust in us is our biggest success.”

Ecoteam Northern Star – published Friday 5 August 2016 (editorial and paid advertisement)

Ecoteam Lismore Echo – published Thursday 4 August 2016 (photo in MP Kevin Hogan’s ‘Comment’ section)

Looking forward to 2017!

Orangutan Enrichment in Borneo

Ornagutan enrichment in borneo

A team of volunteers have made their way to the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary in Borneo, Indonesia to help improve the lives of the orangutans. Volunteers from around Australia have been donating their time to work on an enrichment program which spreads knowledge on the best methods for ensuring the happiness of orangutans in the sanctuary. Orangutans are found in lowland and hilly tropical rainforests on the island of Boreno and are listed as endangered due to deforestation. Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures and are one of our closest relatives which share 98% of our DNA.

Orangutans need enrichment

A team of experts from around Australia are working closely with local keepers to provide daily enrichment to the orangutans. Enrichment activities include providing tools, toys and problem solving puzzles. Managing Director of Ecoteam, Lise Bolton, has recently returned from Samboja Lestari. Lise spent her week in the Indonesian rainforest getting to know the orangutans, helping out with enrichment and designing a new wastewater treatment system for the new orangutan enclosures. “The sanctuary is an amazing place deep in the Borneo rainforest. There are a lot dedicated people working at the facility who are really making a difference to the lives and ongoing survival of the orangutans there”.

ornagutan enrichment

Samboja Lestari is home to 200 orangutans and 47 sun bears who are predominantly displaced or orphaned by habitat loss. Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia works tirelessly alongside the East Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Authority (BKSDA) to rehabilitate and reintroduce orangutans to safe and secure habitat. The Samboja Lestari sanctuary is also open to visitors who want to see the orangutans and sun bears. Visitors can volunteer their time while staying at the forest ecolodge. The sanctuary is part of a 2000 hectare wildlife area purchased by BOS which has been reforested over the past 10 years. The sanctuary is a haven for wildlife and has a number of orangutan islands where orangutans can get ready for their release back into the wild.

The sanctuary receives both adult and orphaned baby orangutans from around Indonesia. The Orangutan reintroduction project runs several forest schools for the baby orangutans. The project provides a refuge to teach the young orangutans all the skills they need to survive on their own in the wild. Orangutans are given a natural education playground to learn forest skills such as making nests and shelters and also to learn about the foods of the forest.

baby orangutans

Due to ongoing deforestation in Indonesia, the orangutan sanctuary is always growing. Orangutans are very close relatives of humans and easily catch human diseases. The sanctuary is being overwhelmed with more orangutans which are suffering for diseases such as hepatitis B and tuberculosis. Unfortunately these orangutans need to be quarantined and treated to avoid the spread of infection. BOS has built new enclosures which will house these orangutans and ensure their proper care. However more orangutans mean more orangutan poo.

Ecoteam worked with BOS to come up with a solution to treat wastewater from the enclosures. “The enclosures are washed down twice a day to ensure the health of the orangutans and this means a lot of wastewater is generated. We designed an ecological wastewater treatment system which will be simple to operate and maintain into the future” says Lise. The wetland based wastewater treatment system which will harness nature to treat the water. “The system requires no energy and uses gravel and plants to clean the water”.

constructed wetland for wastewater treatment

Ecoteam have donated their services to design and assist with the construction of the system. Ecoteam is an environmental engineering company based in Lismore which provides ecologically based waste solutions, including constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment.   This is the third system Ecoteam have designed in partnership with BOS Australia. The President of BOS Australia and owner of the Macadamia Castle, Tony Gilding, has been helping overseeing the project “We are so delighted with the expertise provided by Ecoteam. Without them this project would not have been possible. They have spent hundreds of hours designing, project managing and supervising construction of these constructed wetlands. All probono. They have deep knowledge of building systems in remote areas of Australia and designing systems that are almost maintenance free. It has been a joy working with them.”

Lise Bolton orangutan enrichment

The wetland based water treatment system was installed in at Samboja Lestari in November 2015. The construction was supervised Tom Bertinshaw who spent a month at the sanctuary assisting with the project. The construction team also includes plumber Nik Hyde who will visit the sanctuary shortly and provide training on how to operate and maintain the system.

To find out more about orangutan survival projects or provide assistance by adopting a baby orangutan or purchasing some rainforest visit Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia http://www.orangutans.com.au/

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