Torquay dam faces decommission after uncapped pipe discovered

October 15, 2020 BY

Before the high transfer pumps arrived, local fire brigades used their pumps to remove water from the dam.

SOUTHERN Rural Water (SRW) has issued the owner of the private dam next to Pintail Drive a direction of notice to repair the dam by November 30 or have it decommissioned, after the discovery of an uncapped pipe.

About 100 residents from Pintail Drive, Druids Glen, Lowtide Drive, and Cosy Avenue were evacuated from their houses on October 2 after three Pintail Drive properties had their yards flooded.

While there was no definitive evidence at the time that the water had come from the dam, State Emergency Services deemed a dam wall failure could be “catastrophic”.

High transfer pumps were then used to drain about 70 megalitres from the dam, removing the immediate risk of a dam failure. Residents were allowed to return to their houses on October 4.

The reduced water level of the dam also exposed an uncapped pipe.

SRW’s testing confirmed the water pooling in the three properties on Pintail Drive came from the pipe. SRW believes water only reached the old pipework when the dam’s water levels were high.

SRW managing director Cameron FitzGerald spoke to affected residents on Thursday last week to provide an update on the situation.

Mr FitzGerald said the dam’s owner had been issued with a direction notice under section 80 of the Water Act 1989.

“In the short term, this means the owner must keep the water in the dam at the current reduced level or below to ensure ongoing public safety. In the longer term, it requires the owner to show cause by November 30 why the dam should not be decommissioned.

“We are also intending to establish a residents’ consultative group to assist with community engagement in relation to the future of the dam.”

On Monday last week, the day after evacuated residents had been allowed to return to their homes, South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman sent a letter to the Surf Coast Shire council’s acting chief executive officer Anne Howard calling for an “investigation and an explanation as to how planning approval was issued to allow the construction of residential houses directly adjacent to and below a dam of this size and height”.

Mr Cheeseman said it was essential for the community to receive clarification.

“The Torquay community needs to be reassured that our statutory and strategic planning decisions have not failed our community and the property owners and residents of the Zeally Sands estate. That is why I’m calling for this comprehensive public process to ensure the integrity of our local planning decisions.”

While Mr Cheeseman sent the letter before SRW discovered the cause of the flooding, Mr Cheeseman said he was “personally of the view that it would be difficult to see that a dam of this magnitude and scale overshadowing this estate can ever be considered safe for these residents in its current location”.