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Treatment plant upgrade fosters innovative approach

There has been plenty of innovation during one of the biggest and most complex wastewater treatment plant upgrades in Australia.

The Malabar Process and Reliability/Renewal (PARR) Improvement Project has involved keeping the nation's largest ocean outfall plant operational while upgrading almost every element.

The plant, which treats almost a third of Sydney's wastewater, is mostly underground and that has proven challenging, according to Alliance General Manager Richard Ioffrida.

“Innovation has been at the heart of our approach to the Malabar PARR Improvement Project, which is one of the prime and complex wastewater treatment upgrades in Australia,” Ioffrida said.

And working in confined spaces has required a number of custom lifting solutions.

“For example we had to lift a very large 27-metre-high boom through a very small four meter hatch down 20 metres into a large, deep digester tank. That required us to custom-design a special lifting cradle,” Ioffrida said.

“Whenever you're picking up big kit and having to squeeze it through small spaces it's always difficult, but you have faith in the expertise, planning and design performed by the engineers and the skill of the crews on the day.”

Part of the project is to migrate all equipment to a new SCADA control system, which means working on all existing equipment, even if it is not being replaced or upgraded.

“This in itself is a massive challenge as it adds a whole heap of additional complexity,” Ioffrida said.

The project has been delivered through an alliance between Sydney Water, John Holland, UGL Engineering and GHD.

The team has been working on the $100 million PARR project since 2014 and is scheduled to complete the majority of the upgrade later this year.

“The challenge of upgrading everything and keeping the sewage flowing 24/7 mean this is definitely the most complex brownfield job I've worked for and I can't think of another brownfield job that involves literally every part of the plant being affected,” Ioffrida said.

“Ultimately the success of the project comes down to effective planning and working closely with the Sydney Water operators.”