Victoria’s desalination plant is set to begin serious construction any day now. The Victorian State Government claimed that all would be well, with ‘Worlds best practice’ outcomes being guaranteed.
However their Environmental Effects Study didn’t even consider many of the environmental issues. Of the issues that it did consider many were poorly assessed, in the shortest time ever for an EES of this scale, and without input from anyone other than their own departments and regularly employed consultant firms. At the end of the assessment process the government said it would adopt the recommendations of the panel it had appointed, with a rider that it would do so, “if practicable” (perhaps meaning if it wasn’t too expensive to do so).
AquaSure, the consortium to build the plant, and the banks, have relied on the Government’s EES as the basis for them believing the project is acceptable. AquaSure show us an artists impression of one building in the desal complex that has a green living roof, but not much else. All the potential problems associated with seawater desalination can still occur within this building and everywhere else from the marine environment, through the treatment and waste disposal, to the pumping costs, and all the way to our taps.
We are still not being told whether the experts ‘best practice’ outcomes for each of these stages will be met. The government never answered any of our concerns through the EES process and now AquaSure seem to be largely following the same procedure. Although the government and AquaSure had assured us that the details of the contracts signed and cost of water delivered would be made freely available on signing of the plant contracts, this has not happened. Environmental management plans for construction and operation are likewise not available, even though machinery is operating on site.
Nobody could say that desalination was the best option for Melbourne. Now, if it does go ahead, how can we be sure we will get, ‘best practice’ outcomes, from this unfortunate water option?