Minimising cultural impacts with trenchless technology

Jul 08, 2024

Yarra Valley Water is leveraging the benefits of trenchless technology to lessen impacts on the Upper Darebin Creek branch sewer project.

The project consists of building a 2.7km sewer pipe in Melbourne’s suburb Epping, which will provide essential sewer infrastructure to approximately 2400 surrounding commercial and residential properties. The project is part of the Quarry Hills Precinct Structure Plan and will provide critical infrastructure to accommodate future population growth. “By 2050, the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) predicts this northern growth area will be home to around 300,000 people, with 100,000 homes, and support around 80,000 jobs,” Yarra Valley Water acting general manager growth futures Bridie Fennessy said. “It also demonstrates our commitment to cultural preservation and sustainable infrastructure development to support the growing needs of the community in Melbourne’s north.”

Construction began in May 2023, with microtunnelling used as the method of construction to reduce environmental impact. Around 187m of microtunnelling construction was completed from Masereti Park to Lydgate Terrace.

Yarra Valley Water worked with delivery partner MFJ Constructions, with Pezzimenti Trenchless subcontracted for the microtunnelling works. The utility also installed a 350m pipe with microtunelling to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. “We believe minimising impacts to the Darebin Creek and the surrounding environmentally sensitive areas is paramount,” Fennessy said.

“These methods were selected because they minimise disruption to the environment and cultural significant areas. “One of the other benefits is that they’re often more cost-effective than traditional open-cut methods.” The use of trenchless technology was crucial in minimising impacts across the surrounding environments, according to Fennessy. “Compared to traditional open-cut methods, trenchless technology is often more cost-effective when considering total project costs and has a lower environmental impact,” she said. “It reduces the need for extensive excavation and minimises disruption to the surrounding environment.” These benefits were heralded when dealing with challenges around the construction area.

“One of the biggest challenges was that the sewer was being constructed in an area with high cultural heritage significance,” Fennessy said. “We needed to complete salvaging along the alignment before construction.” Yarra Valley Water worked with an Aboriginal-owned business Have A Dig in 2022 to identify potential impact excavation may have on the area.

“This cultural salvage program involved a combination of hand and mechanical archaeological digs to identify, record and preserve artefacts,” Fennessy said. “As part of the project’s design investigations, a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) was developed. “The CHMP was approved by the Registered Aboriginal Party for the area, which is the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Conservation Cultural Heritage Council.”

Almost 700 Aboriginal stone artefacts were uncovered in Quarry Hills during complex assessment. The utility is still analysing the salvage report and is expecting the number to be significantly higher. Three of these Aboriginal pieces were recorded into the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register. “Trenchless technology helped minimise disruption to cultural heritage sites by allowing for more precise construction methods that avoid disturbing archaeological sites,” Fennessy said. “The pipes were installed as deep as eight meters underground, which resulted in minimal impact above the ground.”


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