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Cost-cutting caused water delay: grazier

Tuesday, 5th January, 2016

By Andrew Robertson

Essential Water has defended its management of the Menindee-Broken Hill pipeline after a grazier claimed the line was out of action for days after a pipe burst.

The rupture, which affected a section of pipe about 40km from the city, happened when a power failed crashed-stopped pumps at Kinalung in the early hours of Thursday.

Essential Water said it expected repairs to the pipe to be completed by Thursday afternoon, and for the line to be operational again by Friday morning after it was fully recharged with water.  

But grazier Kym Andrews told the BDT yesterday that while repairs were completed by Friday, he wasn’t able to access water from the pipeline until Sunday morning.

He said notification tags were placed on the four outlets that come off the pipeline to his property, Avondale Station, requesting that he not turn them on until notified.

The delay meant he was forced to cart water to several of the 24 tanks situated around his property to ensure over 7000 sheep and 100 head of cattle had sufficient water.   

Mr Andrews said cost-cutting was behind the delay in recharging the pipeline, claiming part of the problem was that there was no longer a back-up pump at Kinalung.

He said there was also an issue at the other end of the pipeline that hampered the recharge process. 

A booster tank located at Stephens Creek was used to recharge the line but Mr Andrews said that was in turn being refilled from Stephens Creek through only a 50mm pipeline. 

“That’s why it took two days to fill the pipeline,” said Mr Andrews, who added he wasn’t the only grazier forced to cart water in that period.

Essential Water’s manager of water supply and quality John Coffey said appropriate action was taken to repair and recharge the ageing pipeline.

“Essential Water last weekend used every means available to recharge the pipeline in the least risky method to ensure the pipe wouldn’t fail again.”   

Mr Coffey said the back-up pumps Mr Andrews was referring to were still there but were “too old and redundant to use”.

He also rejected suggestions graziers did not have access to any water for days.

“We had some water being supplied to them during the event.

“They were isolated completely for a short time but it certainly wasn’t 24 hours. 

“It was a major burst and a lot of water had to be fed back in from the other end slowly.

“Whenever we do pipeline maintenance and even do minor repairs we only isolate a section or two at a time, but when you have a major failure so far down the pipeline there’s more water that has to be recharged.”

He also said Essential Water kept in contact with graziers during the whole process.

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