Victoria Minister for Water Lisa Neville has approved an agreement between the Victorian Government and Coliban Water to protect Bendigo and surrounding areas from the threat of rising groundwater, with a plan that involves the construction of a new pipeline.

The $23.2 million funding agreement will see a three to five year transitional solution to protect Bendigo city and Central Deborah gold mine from uncontrolled discharges of groundwater.

The new transitional solution will involve the construction of a pipeline from New Moon to Coliban Water’s Epsom Water Reclamation Plant as well as proposed upgraded treatment facilities.

Previously, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) contracted the Bendigo Trust to dewater the mines.

Pumping was stopped in February 2016 but in May, the Victorian Government approved the transfer of mining licences in Bendigo from Unity Mining to Kralcopic.

The transfer of the mining licences enabled DELWP to enter into negotiations with Kralcopic to resume pumping the groundwater from the Central Deborah shaft to the New Chum line via the Eureka shaft, and pumping resumed in June 2016.

Victoria Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the new transitional solution is “a vital project to make sure Bendigo and surrounding communities are free from the risks of groundwater today and for many years to come.”

The water will be treated at the Epsom Water Reclamation Plant to remove arsenic, rotten egg gas, other metals and salt with the proposal that clean water will be reused or returned to the environment.

The transitional plan is based on a preferred option recommended by the Bendigo Groundwater Community Reference Group and endorsed by the State and Local Government Advisory Group.

A tender process will be undertaken for the design, construction and operation of the solution which will generate economic activity in the region.

Naturally occurring groundwater within Bendigo’s network of disused and abandoned mines has been recovering to natural levels since mining ceased.

Victoria Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said, “This plan will protect our beautiful city from uncontrolled discharges of groundwater and keep the popular Central Deborah tourist mine operating.”

While the groundwater has elevated levels of salinity, arsenic, other heavy metals and hydrogen sulphide gas, it’s being carefully managed and does not pose an immediate risk to the environment or community.

Ms Neville said, “We are getting on with finding a permanent solution to rising groundwater and ensuring Bendigo remains a vibrant and thriving regional city.”

The Labor Government is investing $27.4 million towards the Bendigo Groundwater Project.

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