60% of water supply at risk

September 11, 1991

By Paul Burow

BRISBANE — The Queensland government seems determined to steamroll ahead with siting the state's largest toxic waste dump at Gurulmundi, near Miles in southern Queensland, despite expert advice against it.

A resident's group, People Against Toxic Chemical Hazards (PATCH), has done much research and obtained information from various geologists, environmentalists and local people knowledgeable about the area. This information reveals a potential for widespread contamination of water from the dump.

Geologist Dr George Gibson stated in one submission that some water recharge areas for underground aquifers in the region take in part of the dump site itself. These aquifers feed water bores over 100 kilometres from the site. Added to this is the risk of contaminating other aquifers which are linked to the Great Artesian Basin.

The soil used to encase the deposited waste will be on-site clay. This is a bentonite clay that reacts to moisture by swelling and to drying by cracking. The cracked clay could easily channel water to the waste, especially during floods.

The Gurulmundi site is also a catchment area for the Condamine-Murray river systems and the Dawson-Fitzroy river systems. One creek actually crosses the site.

Given the periodic flooding of the area and the instability of bentonite with water, and its position in relation to aquifers, location of the dump at Gurulmundi is fraught with danger. A worst case scenario would contaminate 60% of Australia's above-ground and underground water.

Dr Gibson stated, "By international standards the risk to ground water supplies at Gurulmundi would probably be considered unacceptably high".

The government's "experts" dispute this. However, according to PATCH, a representative of the consultants appointed by the government to carry out an "Impact Assessment Study" stated in Miles that the company "has never built or been involved in the normal operation of a land fill".

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