Jesse Naumann and Benjamin Harvey overlook the Mount Morgan open cut which contains up to 10,000 megalitres of contaminated water that could be purified for drinking.
Jesse Naumann and Benjamin Harvey overlook the Mount Morgan open cut which contains up to 10,000 megalitres of contaminated water that could be purified for drinking. Supplied

Mine's toxic water may be purified

IT'S been described as the most polluted in Australia, but Mount Morgan's mine water could one day be flowing through the taps.

Fitzroy River Water wants to solve the town's long-term supply problems by purifying the contents of the old gold mine – and it's the water environmental campaigners say has the same pH as battery acid and is a deadly cocktail of heavy chemicals.

Faced with bills of up to $40 million to construct a new dam on Nine Mile Creek, or close to $12 million for a pipeline from Gracemere, FRW favours the lower-cost option of installing a reverse osmosis plant at the mine.

It will cost an estimated $3.8 million.

Water Committee chairman Greg Belz said yesterday the technology, which is used in desalination plants around the world, had the capacity to transform the contaminated supply into the purest water possible.

“We're very confident in reverse osmosis which is proven, safe technology already used in many parts of the world to treat sea water to drinking standard,” he said.

Rockhampton Regional Council will now talk to the Department of Mines and Energy, which owns the mine and its lethal contents, to set up formal negotiations.

It has been seeking an affordable and long-term supply for Mount Morgan since amalgamation and Cr Belz says reverse osmosis was the preferred option of the previous Mount Morgan Council.

Although the town's Number Seven Dam is currently full and experts estimate there is enough stored capacity to last until 2020 unless there is a prolonged drought, Cr Belz says he wants to ensure the community is never threatened by a serious water shortage.

“It is important these decisions are made and the plans are in place to swing into action when additional water is needed in the future,” he said.

“This option means a safe, secure long-term supply that can more than meet the needs of the community, even if the population far exceeds current predictions.

“And it is a robust, very cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, high-tech solution.”

The council will organise a community meeting so residents can discuss the options and give their views.

Earlier this year councillors voted unanimously to lobby the State Government to pour more money into rehabilitating the mine and the estimated 10,000 megalitres of toxic water in the open- cut pit.

They were warned that if the water escaped into the Dee River and then into the Fitzroy, Rockhampton's supplies of drinking water would be destroyed.



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