Many parts of Australia have experienced the extremes of weather over the past week, as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald moved down the east coast of Australia.
This week water distributor Queensland Urban Utilities enacted mandatory water restrictions, limiting water use for essential purposes only and all residents and businesses were urged to conserve water.
Due to record turbidity levels in the Brisbane River as a result of the extreme weather from ex Tropical Cyclone Oswald, SEQWater had to take the Mt Crosby Water Treatment Plant offline. The high turbidity and suspended solids in the flood waters which filled SEQ’s dams created problems for SEQWater’s water treatment plants
Unfortunately, many businesses and residents saw a need to stockpile water, in case supplies did run out and as a consequence they almost did.
The bulk water supply demand across the region was met, however SEQWater is continuing to work with the distributor-retailers to monitor the situation carefully.
On Friday, 25 January 2013 the Queensland Minister for the Environment Andrew Powell told the media 4 mines had been given approval to release contaminated mine water into the Fitzroy River.
He stated that it would cause no problems because the river was already in flood so the salty and heavy metal contaminants in the mine water would be diluted.
Allegedly, an official gave a figure of approximately 1 litre of contaminated water for every 100 litres of "fresh" river water.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) is responsible for regulating and monitoring mines water releases into receiving environments and works collaboratively with other government agencies in managing, monitoring and mitigating mines releases during times of extreme weather events.
The Economic Development Bill 2012 (now the Act), was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 29 November 2012, and enables the state government to approve the release of water from mines with only 24 hours notice. Under a Temporary Emissions License, companies no longer have to test their mine water for contaminants before they release.
As a result of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald there are a number of mines in central Queensland discharging mines water into receiving rivers and creeks. EHP is working with the relevant mines and Companies to ensure these releases are managed and controlled in the best possible way. Details of the mines releasing discharges in accordance with their environmental authorities are listed below and will be continually updated over coming days.
In November 2012 the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) issued amended environmental authorities to four coal mines located in central Queensland to conduct a pilot of enhanced mine water release during the 2012-13 wet season.
EHP is publishing a daily update of mine affected water releases for the four mines provided with approval to take part in this pilot are:
This pilot will be closely regulated by EHP and the downstream water quality will be closely monitored by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines. In addition, the four BMA mines will also be required to undertake additional monitoring.
As part of the close monitoring and regulation of this pilot, EHP has prepared an Isaac Pilot Operational Policy that provides information for when a cease release will be issued to ensure that water supply and water quality—for both drinking and irrigation—will not be compromised by the pilot.
Ongoing real-time water monitoring data of water quality in the Fitzroy catchment is available during the pilot as it is at any other time. Visit the Fitzroy River website to view water quality information.
The minister and EHP may have approved another 38 mine releases over the long weekend. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection posted a list of 42 mines which have been permitted to release contaminated water into the rising
. Fitzroy River