This made page 1 and 3 of this week's edition of the Queensland Telegraph here
http://www.queenslandtelegraph.com/read/ It follows on from the recent debate about the virtues of reverse osmosis plants as proposed for treating CSG excess contaminated water.
The pristine waters of Bustard Bay, home of CQ's first ocean desalination plant at Agnes Water near the township of 1770.
By John Mikkelsen
CENTRAL Queensland now has its first ocean desalination plant, with taps soon to flow fresh water from the sea at Agnes Water.
The $40 million plant is in the final commissioning stages for Gladstone Regional Council, after five years of battling protestors and Mother Nature.
Initially it is expected to meet about half of the small community’s water needs in coming months, with cheaper existing underground supplies providing the remainder.
Boasting Queensland’s most northern surf beach and a thriving tourism industry, Agnes Water overlooks the pristine waters of Bustard Bay first explored by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770.
Gladstone Regional Council inherited the scheme from the former Miriam Vale Shire in 2007 following the Beattie Labor government’s forced amalgamations. When it decided to press ahead with the desalination plant and sewerage treatment project rather than risk losing a $27 million State subsidy, a determined protest was launched based on environmental concerns and claimed exorbitant costs.
THE Community Over Desalination (COD) protest group fought the long campaign with the backing of former member for Burnett Rob Messenger, claiming the site between Agnes Water and Deepwater National Park would place a nesting beach for endangered loggerhead turtles at risk.
However this was denied by council and the Bligh government, with construction starting in January 2010 after studies ruled out alternative schemes including a costly pipeline from Gladstone’s Awoonga Dam..
It was claimed that dwindling underground supplies would be unable to meet the growing community’s needs. During the desal plant’s planning stages, scientists including chief climate change commissioner Tim Flannery were warning Australia’s prevailing drought would never end and major rivers would cease flowing.
The same claims inspired the Bligh government to press ahead with the state’s other major multi- million dollar desal plant at Tugan on the Gold Coast, a recycling plant and hundreds of kilometers of pipelines linking storages in South East Queensland.
Irony prevailed when record floods occurred in late 2010, 2011 and again this year, filling dams and replenishing underground supplies including those at Agnes Water.
Council CEO Stuart Randle yesterday said the new desal plant was expected to meet the community’s needs for six months of the year, with cheaper underground supplies providing the remainder.
He told the Telegraph total cost of water and electricity when the plant was at full capacity was expected to be about $2 a kilolitre.
“The desal plant option was chosen by the Miriam Vale Council in 2007 when the existing town supply was under stress and population growth was very strong.
“Since that time the population growth has stalled and successive good wet seasons have replenished the aquifer.
“The result is that the town is currently able to be serviced from the much cheaper groundwater supplies. The next drought and renewed interest in the Agnes Water region will change that at some time”.
Mr Randle said the present commissioning process was “complex” and would include cleaning of the inlet lines using specialist contractors.
“ Once that is complete the process moves into the acceptance testing phase which will take a further month to complete”.
TRILITY, a water infrastructure management firm, will operate the plant on council’s behalf.
“ It will be paid for fixed and variable costs, much the same way that phone bills are separated into line rental and call charges. The fixed portion is shared across the service connections so, as the community grows, the plant will become more cost effective.
“The variable cost of treating seawater at full capacity, excluding electricity, is about 24 cents per kilolitre. The cost of electricity at present equates to about 50 cents per kilolitre.Total cost of production at full capacity is expected to be around $2.00 per kilolitre”.
Cr Ren Lanzon told The Telegraph he had inspected a similar ocean desalination plant during a recent visit to his homeland of Malta, and he did not envisage environmental problems.
“The outflow of the plant fell from a cliff face into the sea, giving the Maltese a rare sight, a waterfall.
“The famously Blue Mediterranean is about three times more salty than our blue Pacific. Oddly it's still a favourite fishing spot for the Maltese. Apparently the fish don't mind the mineral outflow from the plant,” Cr Lanzon said.