West Wimmera urges Horsham council: Retain Douglas mine site responsibility to protect groundwater from radioactive waste

The former Douglas mine site. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

The former Douglas mine site. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

WEST Wimmera Shire Council hopes Horsham Rural City Council retains planning responsibility for the Douglas mine site to ensure nearby groundwater is safe.

Councillors and officers from Horsham, West Wimmera and Southern Grampians municipalities met government department representatives to discuss Iluka Resources’ proposal to continue storing radioactive material at its former Douglas mine site.

West Wimmera councillor Annette Jones said the meeting included representatives from the Environment Protection Authority, the Transport Department, Health Department and other experts on hydrology and radiation who  would all be involved if Iluka applied to open a permanent landfill for radioactive waste.

“Horsham Rural City Council could choose to process the planning amendment request in-house, or it could opt to hand it over to the State Government for resolution,” she said.

Cr Jones said if Horsham Rural City chose to retain its planning rights, it would be able to request safeguards over and above current regulations.

“The safeguards would protect residents in the Douglas area and allay fears of groundwater contamination,” she said.

West Wimmera council is concerned waste at the site could affect Harrow’s water supply. 

“While the mine is in Horsham Rural City boundaries, groundwater is shared by us all,” Cr Jones said.

“Harrow’s town water supply is in the vicinity, as is the Glenelg River. 

“We have a responsibility to our residents to ensure that the quality of our groundwater will not be adversely affected.”

Cr Richard Wait said Horsham Rural City needed to retain planning responsibility for the site.

“They need to look after their own people and not hand it over to the State Government,” he said.

Cr Jones said the planning issues were complex and councillors raised issues at the meeting about the lack of technical information.

“Even the experts acknowledged the hydrological system in the Douglas area was not well understood,” she said.

West Wimmera council hopes to organise another meeting with Horsham Rural City and Southern Grampians Shire representatives.

Cr Jones said the Environment Protection Authority would require a landfill site at Douglas to have a clay-lined pit in order for waste to be stored.

Horsham Rural City chief executive Peter Brown said before council decided whether to remain the planning authority or not, it needed to fully understand the situation and the pros and cons of such a decision.

“At this stage we don’t have that and we haven’t fully considered all the issues,” he said.

“We won’t be making a decision until we have all the facts.”

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