LGAQ calls for policy on industrial water discharges
REVELATIONS that millions of litres in mine discharges were released up-stream of a drinking water reservoir has forced Queensland councils to demand action from the State.
The Local Government Association Queensland - which stands for all 73 councils - wants the Queensland Government to enact policy so councils are told whenever industrial water could affect their town's drinking supplies.
It follows an investigation by APN which found more than 500 million litres of water was released from the Callide coal mine into Dunn Creek, which then flowed into Callide Dam.
The Banana Shire Council is responsible for treating this water to supply Biloela's thousands of residents.
The Department of Environment did not alert them because it considered the water to be of high quality and considerably diluted.
LGAQ manager Greg Hoffmann said the State was in no position to judge the potential risk to a community's water supply.
Of the two water releases, the second incident lasted for 61 days from February to April and totalled 270 million litres.
There was no indication these releases caused any risk to health.
Banana Shire mayor Ron Carige only learned of the incident when contacted by APN.
Mr Hoffmann said legislation or a policy change was needed so councils were not left in the dark about what they supplied to residents.
"The council might say, 'That's fine, that's not an issue', but it's like the government saying 'Don't you worry about that'," he said.
The State, he said, could not know the intricacies of how each council or water body was treating its drinking water.
In the Fitzroy Catchment alone, which flows through much of Central Queensland including Rockhampton, there are 42 operating coal mines.
Mr Hoffmann said as coal seam gas and coal mining increased, the need for this data increased.
He referred to a case in 2012, when water in Kingaroy was tainted by an underground gasification plant and the government failed to warn the community.
According to the LGAQ, the Department of Environment learned carcinogenic chemicals, benzene and toxic toluene had leaked from Cougar Energy's project but waited 14 days to tell councils and residents of the threat to drinking water.
Environment Minister Andrew Powell did not respond to comments from the LGAQ but said councils were always told if his department considered there to be a risk to water.
Mr Powell said information was also available at www.fitzroyriver.qld.gov.au.
Mr Hoffman said councils could not just sit around as a website updates. He viewed a better way of sharing information as "an absolute essential".
Creating the policy "can do absolutely no harm and it can do a lot of good," he said.