IDEA OVERFLOW: Gympie's William Bona is keeping Australia's floodwaters clean with his Rainstopper manhole insert.
IDEA OVERFLOW: Gympie's William Bona is keeping Australia's floodwaters clean with his Rainstopper manhole insert. Troy Jegers

'People don't like standing where their own s--- floats by'

IT IS a popular image: someone swimming up Mary Street during a flood.

But for William Bona it elicits a much different reaction.

"When I see that, I cringe.

"You can be 99 per cent sure it has faecal matter in it, because sewers overflow,” the civil engineer said.

Nor is this health hazard the sole reserve of major flood events.

The Gympie businessman says his is the only company in Australia offering an effective answer - with the Rainstopper.

The product is an insert that stops floodwater entering sewers through access holes or manholes.

Gympie Flood
One of Gympie's floods. Renee Albrecht

"I was at the World of Concreting in Las Vegas which happens in January every year,” he said.

"I was looking for ideas of something to go on with that I had some knowledge with ... I came across a company over there that had a similar product.”

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The device is simple and stops the vast majority of stormwater from flowing into the sewerage system.

When these sewer pipes overflow, the water can wind up being dumped into rivers.

"As soon as sewage ends up at a treatment plant ... it still has to go through the same treatment process which costs a lot of money.”

The Rainstopper insert is in use by organisations with floodprone areas including Sydney Water, Rockhampton Regional Council and Water Corporation WA.

Gympie Times building in Flood February 22nd 1992.
More floods. Renee Albrecht

He has even managed to get it across the ditch and taken up by the Western Bay of Plenty District Council in New Zealand.

The move to become the "only ones that manufacture these” in Australia came after he encountered a range of problems with the US brand.

So instead he asked if he could utilise the idea, made a few tweaks of his own for Australian conditions, and the rest is history.

The plate is not the only overseas influence in Mr Bona's work, either.

He was born in Italy and immigrated to Australia with his family in 1965 when he was aged nine.

He entered the construction industry and has worked in New Zealand, New Guinea and in Australia, including a 20-year stint at Mt Isa.

Storm water coming up out of a manhole on corner of East and Stanley Streets.
Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Manhole overflowing. Allan Reinikka ROK250113afloods3

Mr Bona also had his own business.

"I got sick of dealing with the red tape the industry is now faced with, 20 years ago you would go and do a contract on a handshake and a piece of paper.

"Now it requires three trees to be cut down to make 100 sheets of paper to do a $10 contract.”

Age was also a factor in his decision to leave the "heavy work” industry,

"We used to do a lot of marine and sewer work. It's heavy, cumbersome work.

"It's not fun to go down there.

"People, I guess... don't like standing where their own s--- is floating past.”

So he came to Gympie and started his own business 10 years ago.

Rainstoppers came along five years later and, as the famous blues saying goes, business is good.

He hopes to have Gympie Regional Council and its 7000-odd manholes on-board soon, too.

At the moment, he said they "manufactured and spin the round ones” in Brisbane, with some minor work done in Maryborough and Gympie.

"It depends on the order and how complicated it is.”

But he would like to increase the amount of manufacturing done in the Gympie region and drive the employment level forward.