US sludge a sweet salinity solution

30 Jun, 2004 10:00 PM

TECHNOLOGY developed for the US mining industry could hold the key to making deep drainage a more palatable salinity solution for the government and environmental groups.

Kulin farmer and former WA Channel Management Group (WACMG) secretary Margaret Carmody has asked Environment Minister Judy Edwards to invite representatives of engineering firm CH2M Hill and HPT Research Incorporated to WA to address farmers and the department on their water treatment technology.

The Ionic State Modification Process (ISMP) they developed targets specific metals and neutralises water acidity, generating a thick sludge that can be disposed of.

It has been most successfully used at the Iron Mountain mine site in California, where downstream pollution from the most acidic water ever recorded, was reduced by 80pc.

Ms Carmody said ISMP could be applied to the WACMG proposal for an arterial channel to transport saline water to the ocean, and could eliminate the threat of acid water and downstream pollution.

"The combined scheme of trunkline drainage, treatment plant and piping could be so-designed to address concerns about downstream impacts of a major drainage system in the Yilgarn-Lockhart catchment and part of the Avon region, to enable clean, hypersaline water to flow 365 days a year out of the Wheatbelt," Ms Carmody said.

She said some farmers were keen to see work on the WACMG proposal start immediately, but it would not happen unless the associated environmental risks were addressed.

"The fact is we've got saline water that is corrosive anyway, and if we have to deal with acid water too then let's get out there and deal with it," she said.

She said 300 million litres of sewerage were pumped into the ocean from Marmion Marine Park in Perth each day, which included significant concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous, zinc, copper, lead and even traces of arsenic.

"I think we can do a lot better than that," she said.

She said an ISMP treatment plant could treat thousands of litres of toxic water a second.

There was more than enough money available to finance a plant and the WACMG proposal.

"WA grain production last season had a net worth of $3 billion, the Burrup Peninsula is expected to produce $60 billion in 2005-2006. If that's coming out of WA then of course we've got the money.

"There's an election coming up and we're asking will the National Party back this scheme? Which of the political parties will back this scheme?"

A spokesperson for Ms Edwards said the minister had received Ms Carmody's letter but could not yet comment on the likelihood of a meeting on this issue.


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