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Our water safe

Friday, 23rd September, 2011

By Craig Brealey

There was no evidence to show that contaminated water from an old mine dam in Eyre Street was getting into the city’s water supply, according to a  City Council report.

The water leaking from the dam was high in lead, cadmium and other contaminants but it was only affecting the land near the dam and was not reaching the city’s reservoirs, according to the report by Council’s Manager of Sustainability.

At last month’s Council meeting a South resident, Robyn Gould, presented to Council two analyses of the content of the water that showed high levels of heavy metals and contaminants including cyanide and arsenic.

One analysis was from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (formerly the EPA) and the other she commissioned from a private company.

Mrs Gould said ponds of contaminated water had formed on the side of the road in Eyre Street and children had been playing in the run-off from the dam. She asked Council to put up warning signs and investigate the matter further.

This week Council’s Manager of Sustainability, Peter Oldsen, presented a report to Council’s Environmental Services Committee in which he said that the problem had been caused by the high rainfall at the start of the year.

The dam was originally used by a previous mining company, Normandy, to catch stormwater run-off from the skimp dumps but was capped in 1998 and decommissioned in 2000, Mr Oldsen reported.

The high rainfall in January and March this year refilled the dam and it started leaking. The water ran down through the regeneration area to Eyre Street and went into a stormwater drain and under the road to the quarry and then out towards the South Golf Club.

The chemical analyses of the water showed it was contaminated, Mr Oldsen reported, but there was nothing to show that it was getting into the city’s water supply.

“There is no current evidence that the these contaminants are affecting the Broken Hill water storages and any impact appears to be localised,” he said.

The dam is situated on a parcel of Western Lands that is leased by Perilya. It abuts the Consolidated Broken Hill (CBH) lease and CBH has started working to fix the leak even though it is not obliged to.

In July the company dug a sump and pumped water from the dam to lower the water level and last month City Council removed vegetation and silt along the side of the road to stop the ponds forming, Mr Oldsen said. 

CBH was also checking the dam for seepage each week and trying to trace the source of the water and the contaminants, according to the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

The investigation, which is due to be completed by November 14, will provide recommendations for “preventing or eliminating the seepage and rehabilitating the area affected,” it said.

If CBH finds that the contaminated water is coming from its lease it will negotiate with the OEH ways of stopping the leak and remediating the affected land, the OEH said.

CBH has also agreed to put a temporary fence around the area, cover the affected land and erect warning signs as an interim measure, Mr Oldsen said.

His report will be considered by Council at its monthly meeting next Wednesday night.

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