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Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Page: 3635

Mr RAMSEY (9:49 AM) —I would like to bring to the attention of the chamber a water recycling scheme in the city of Port Pirie—a city which is home to a world-class smelting operation concentrating predominantly on lead. Port Pirie has a long history in this industry and has had an historical problem with blood lead levels in children. The current operator of the Port Pirie smelter, Nyrstar, is fully committed to its ten by 10 clean-up program, which aims to have the blood lead levels of 95 per cent of the children under five in Port Pirie below 10 milligrams per decilitre by 2010. Nyrstar’s commitment to this goal has seen the company invest $56 million towards the project, some $12 million in the local community. However, the company has made it clear that it must have the tools to do the job. The overriding issue to achieve this aim is the availability of an adequate water supply.

Lead is transferred in the environment as dust, and the most important element in any dust abatement scheme is water. The greening of Port Pirie cannot continue without adequate supplies of water. At the moment one would have to assume that without significant action the city is more likely to face tightening water restrictions, not an increased supply. Port Pirie is currently 100 per cent reliant on the River Murray. The Port Pirie Regional Council and the Southern Flinders Ranges Regional Development Board, in conjunction with Nyrstar, have proposed a water-recycling project aimed at capturing the city’s two effluent streams, industrial and household, and returning 70 per cent of this water for reuse. This will produce 1,349 megalitres per annum.

Both the South Australian and federal governments have given in principal support to desalination plants at Port Bonython, in the Upper Spencer Gulf, and at Port Stanvac, in Adelaide’s south. The estimated cost of the Port Stanvac plant is around $1.3 billion for an output of 50 gigalitres.

The estimated cost for the Port Pirie recycling project is $10 million, for an output of 1.35 gigalitres. This project will deliver around three per cent of the water of the proposed Port Stanvac desalination plant for less than one per cent of the capital cost—three per cent of the water for one per cent of the cost. It is a bargain. Make no mistake: 1.35 gigalitres of water is a significant amount of water—unless of course you come from Darwin—and it would be delivered on site, to the users, without costly pumping and infrastructure required to bring it the 205 kilometres from the Murray to Port Pirie.

The Port Pirie Regional Council has put its money where its mouth is and committed $1 million to this project. The government repeatedly states it is committed to saving the Murray; now is the time for it to step up to the plate and do something positive about it. The recycled water stream of the proposed plant represents 64 per cent of the region’s mains water draw from the Murray River. This proposal is one which shows advantages on many fronts. It takes pressure off the Murray and it supplies extra water so that the City of Port Pirie can address its lead contamination issues. It will provide better health for children and will also greatly reduce the amounts of outfalls into the gulf. The Liberal Party pledged its support for this project during the election; it is time the Labor government stepped up to the plate.