Pondage water will not be increased: ENGIE

Michelle Slater

ENGIE has no plans to refill the Hazelwood Pondage or fix the dam walls, the company told a community forum on Wednesday night.

It will start laying topsoil and mulch over beached areas to mitigate dust from receding water lines revealing clay and silt.

ENGIE has also removed the Latrobe Valley Yacht Club pontoon and will help with storing its equipment and infrastructure.

Company representatives faced about 100 people at a forum at the Morwell Italian Australian Club, many of whom called for compensation over the closure, or for the pondage to be donated to the community.

Hazelwood mine lead Garry Wilkinson said a final decision on the pondage’s future would be handed down early next year after a final engineering report into the dam wall safety.

“There will not be any increase of the water level in the future. We must ensure we meet health and safety obligations to the community and we remain compliant of the guidelines,” Mr Wilkinson said.

“If the power station was still operating, it would be a significant risk to the state’s power supply as it’s not an easy task to remedy.”

Mr Wilkinson reminded the forum of ENGIE’s plans to drain the pond in about five years to fill the Hazelwood mine void as part of the mine rehabilitation program.

He said engineers began looking at the structure when legislative changes into dam walls were introduced.

A report recommended dropping the water levels to take pressure off the 50-year-old structure, and closing it to on-water activities.

“We are hoping the Hazelwood mine void when it’s full will exceed anything the pondage offered previously,” he said.

“It was built to support the power station, not built as a recreation facility. It was just good fortune people got to use it during this period,” he said.

ENGIE backed away from any suggestions of compensation, but welcomed offers from anyone to take over its management, however, so far no one had come forward.

Hazelwood Rehabilitation Project director Tony Innocenzi said the repair bill for the 20-metre high dam wall would cost about $50 million which they had no intention of spending on an asset they planned to close.

“The ball park figure was $50 million but this would not stop the millions in ongoing maintenance to keep it into posterity. You can spend money on it and continue to spend money on it,” he said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe was at the forum and said he wanted to explore all opportunities to keep the pondage open.

“Surely the government can make a commitment to do the necessary work and understand what is required to maintain the Hazelwood Pondage for years to come,” he said. “To say it’s too hard is simply not acceptable to those in our community and visitors who enjoy what the pondage has to offer.”