Toxic? Authorities skip on sinkhole water test

WATER found inside a Basin Pocket sinkhole wasn't tested for toxins before it was pumped into a gully that flows into the Bremer River.   

On Tuesday testing the water to "ensure it wasn't contaminated" was identified as a top priority for the three government agencies involved in the restoration project.   

But the QT can reveal none of the agencies; Ipswich City Council, Environment Heritage and Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, carried out the tests.  

We calculated an estimated 300 kilolitres of water was pumped out of the sinkhole which opened up on Tuesday just after 9am, although the State Government said Friday morning it was only 30 kilolitres.

We're waiting to see how that was calculated.

The source of the water remains a mystery.   

Workers from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines pumped the water into a nearby gully that leads to the river, but only after being given the all clear from the Environment Department.  

The State Government has attributed the sinkhole to the collapse of an old mine shaft - shown on historical records to be a few streets away from the Coal St home.  

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No coal is thought to have been brought up the shaft with the records indicating it was an "exploration" drill only, and was abandoned.  

Day two of sink hole drama at Basin Pocket.
Day two of sink hole drama at Basin Pocket. Rob Williams

National Coordinator for environmental organisation National Toxics Network, Jo Immig, says regardless, the water should have been tested.   

"The government would want to be sure the water was safe before releasing it into a living waterway," she said.

"If it was a private company wanting to do the same thing, they would certainly be expected to test the water first."  

The QT obtained water samples from the sink hole as it was being pumped out and has sent them to an independent lab for testing.   

The results will be back in a week.  

The State Government wouldn't expect that lab report to return any hazardous readings given their experts determined the water posed no environmental threat.   

When initially asked about the water testing, the Environment Department said it "acted in an advisory role only" and directed enquiries to the Department of Mines or the council.  

The Department of Mines said it was best to contact the Environment Department and the council suggested contacting the Department of Mines.   

Mayor Paul Pisasale assured residents several times, in this newspaper and via other media organisations, the water would be tested before being released.  

Acting on advice from the State Government Cr Pisasale said on Tuesday "the most important thing is to test the water because if it's contaminated the last thing we want to do is spread that water over a bigger distance."  

He says that was part of the advice from the State Government when the hole first appeared, however, 48 hours later testing was no longer considered necessary.  

Officers from the Environment Heritage and Protection Department at the property to inspect the sinkhole.
Officers from the Environment Heritage and Protection Department at the property to inspect the sinkhole. Helen Spelitis

"I'm advised a further assessment by the department cleared the way for the water to be pumped from the hole."   

The Environment Department responded late Thursday night saying it approved the water to be discharged as it was "unlikely to present any environmental risk".

The department also said the water wasn't released into the Bremer River - it was, however, released into a gully that flows into the Bremer River.

"Environment Heritage Protection officers determined no testing was required as the water was most likely to have taken on the properties of surrounding groundwater," a spokesperson said. 

Editor's note: The Environment Heritage and Protection Department response was not included in the paper version of this story as it was sent after deadline.


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