Water Minister Lisa Neville has approved an agreement to protect Bendigo and surrounding areas from rising groundwater laced with arsenic, heavy metals and ‘rotten-egg gas’.
The $23.2 million funding agreement between the Andrews Labor Government and Coliban Water will see a three- to five-year transitional solution to protect Bendigo from uncontrolled discharges of groundwater.
If left unchecked, the rising groundwater would close the Central Deborah tourist gold mine, threaten millions of dollars in infrastructure and spill into the Murray-Darling basin.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the project would make sure Bendigo and surrounding communities are free from the risks of groundwater “today and for many years to come.”
The project involves the construction of a pipeline from New Moon to Coliban Water’s Epsom Water Reclamation Plant and proposed upgraded treatment facilities.
The water will be treated to remove arsenic, rotten egg gas, other metals and salt. It’s proposed that clean water will be re-used or returned to the environment.
The plan is based on a preferred option recommended by the Bendigo Groundwater Community Reference Group and endorsed by the State and Local Government Advisory Group.
A tender process will be undertaken for the design, construction and operation of the solution which will generate economic activity in the region.
Naturally occurring groundwater within Bendigo’s network of disused and abandoned mines has been recovering to natural levels since mining ceased.
A press release said while the groundwater has elevated levels of salinity, arsenic, other heavy metals and hydrogen sulphide gas, “it’s being carefully managed and does not pose an immediate risk to the environment or community”.
The agreement will bring total state funding for the Bendigo Groundwater Project to $27.4 million.