|On the 19th of May (2003) storm water due to heavy rains proved too much for the incompleted sediment retaining ponds at the Henry Kendall Coastal Waters development in Old Erowal Bay. The ponds, flooded by clay-polluted water from the site, gave way and and discharged a rush of silt and clay laden water down to the Basin at Erowal Bay. The foreshore wetlands as well as the lake bed have been severely effected. Both ecosystems are so sensitive that reparation is likely to be well nigh impossible. It will probably take years for the environment to recover. An obvious conclusion is that the holding ponds were inadequate because the rainfall, while high was not abnormal. Click on the accompanying image for a better look (it is a 177 kb image). Note the discoloured area produced by the silt in the bay. It is worth noting that as early as the 7th of May there was a uncontrolled discharge of water that had the residents of Erowal Bay worrying about the effectiveness of the sediment retaining ponds on the Coastal Waters site.|
This incident raises questions as to reponsibility. The Henry Kendall company would seem to be the prime suspects. However, Shoalhaven City Council as official supervisors of the project would appear to be partially responsible. The Total Environment Centre (TEC), a peak environmental group, produced a media release on the 3rd of June in which they were extremely critical of the Council. They advocated that the State Government intervene, stop the development, and force the Henry Kendall Group to rehabilitate the affected area.
The local St Georges Basin Community Forum has also been active in investigating and highlighting this matter. The Forum held a public meeting on the 19th of June where some 200 concerned residents were addressed by Council officers and Henry Kendall representatives. Following this the Council posted (23/6/03) a media release on its website in which they blamed the developer and promised to ensure that such a disaster would not occur again. A communication group consisting of representatives from the Forum, the Council, Erowal Bay residents, Jervis Bay Regional Alliance and the Henry Kendall developers, has been formed and meets once a month on the Coastal Waters site to exchange information and answer questions.
Unfortunately, in spite of the disaster in May and the lessons that should have been learnt there was a further problem in early September. After gaining permission to release a slow flow of water from one of the ponds on site, a contractor increased the flow by a factor of 3, and flooded neigbouring properties. The flow was only reduced after intervention by local residents and then only stopped at the suggestion of a Residents Communication Group member. For uptodate information go to the news page.
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