Over 100 Torquay residents in Victoria’s Surf Coast were forced to evacuate their homes as authorities pumped the equivalent of 90 olympic-sized pools of water from a leaking dam which was found with potential for “catastrophic” collapse.
Emergency crews worked overnight after residents who lived nearby the 180 megalitre irrigation dam near the intersection of Pin Tail Drive and Horseshoe Bend Road reported water leaking into their properties.
At about 6pm on Friday 2 October, concerns were first raised when water appeared to come up through the ground on two nearby properties, and by 1.30am on Saturday, emergency crews had evacuated 41 homes, totalling more than 100 residents.
To reduce the pressure on the compromised wall, ten CFA trunks were used to pump out water and more than 100 emergency services workers were on-site, including dam engineers trying to gauge the scope of the damage.
Speaking at a virtual community meeting on Saturday afternoon, State Emergency Services (SES) incident controller, Alistair Drayton, said engineers were still trying to determine the cause of the leak.
Emergency services were endeavouring to reduce the capacity of the dam by a minimum of two metres – the equivalent of about half the water.
“We have to ensure the dam’s integrity stays intact … it’s a time and space exercise,” Mr Drayton said at the virtual meeting.
“We’re doing this very, very carefully. I understand the inconvenience to a lot of you, and I appreciate that fully, I really do. But it’s about being safe.”
High transfer pumps were used to remove water slowly throughout Saturday.
“Unfortunately it [the pumping] just can’t be going quickly, because that does present other issues,” Mr Drayton said.
SES operations officer, Ian Carlton, told the ABC that, in the case that the dam did fail, a land-based swift water rescue team had been on standby.
By Sunday, Mr Drayton said there had been “good work done overnight” with the eight high transfer pumps working to reduce the water, but that adding more pumps wouldn’t be a feasible option.
“We could apply more pumps to remove [the water] much quicker, but there is a dam integrity issue and that’s being measured and monitored by engineers who are on-site together with emergency services,” Mr Drayton said.
“The water has fallen by about one metre with another metre to go.”
As of 5:55pm Sunday night, the SES reported that the reduced water levels in the dam had addressed the identified risk, and it no longer considered the incident as an emergency situation so residents in the affected area were able to resume normal activities.
Engineers and advisers are continuing to investigate the source of the water leak.