Adelaide Desalination Plant
The original licence was issued to the consortium constructing the Adelaide Desalination Plant in November 2010. Construction was completed in December 2012, and a licence was issued to Adelaideaqua for the operation of the plant. In March 2015 the current licence was issued to Adelaideaqua, based on the outcomes of an independent review of the monitoring undertaken for the desalination plant.
The EPA has set strict compliance limits and monitoring requirements as part of its environmental licence for the Adelaide Desalination Plant. A summary of monitoring data collected as part of the licence conditions is published regularly on the EPA website.
Changes to licence conditions – March 2015
A condition of the operating licence was for an independent marine monitoring review to be undertaken (licence condition number 305-626) of the original licence. The condition required that:
- an independent review of all marine monitoring is conducted by independent specialist(s) as approved in writing by the EPA prior to the review commencing
- all marine monitoring from the period commencing with the issue of the licence and ending 12 months after the project handover of the 100-GL desalination plant is included in the review
- the full results of the review are provided to the EPA not more than 18 months after project handover of the 100-GL desalination plant.
The purpose of the independent review was to provide conclusions about the harm or otherwise caused to the environment by the desalination plant operations, and to comment on the acceptability of the monitoring undertaken to determine levels of harm.
The project handover date for the 100-GL plant occurred in December 2012, and so the compliance date for this condition was end of June 2014. The independent specialist Professor Anthony Cheshire was appointed by Adelaideaqua in November 2013.
The independent review documentation was provided in full on 30 June 2014, in 21 reports addressing the specific licensing monitoring requirement, and a supplementary report considering the overall monitoring and impacts of the desalination plants discharge on the environment. The conclusions of the supplementary report were that the monitoring to determine if harm was occurring was adequate, and that monitoring has indicated that no harm is occurring.
The report conclusions were accepted by the EPA and as such the specific monitoring requirements of the licence were reviewed, and the outcome of the review led to changes to licence conditions and a new monitoring program.
Conditions have been included in the licence which require that the plant must only operate within salinity discharge levels and discharge pressures that have been demonstrated to cause no harm to the environment. The licence still requires the Adelaideaqua consortium to continually monitor salinity levels at specified offshore monitoring points and report the levels to the EPA.
Some changes are that the salinity monitoring at 4 locations, 100 m from the diffusers, has been modified to salinity monitoring at 2 points, 100 m from the diffuser. The requirement to monitor in real time is no longer required, however the data will need to be retrieved regularly to confirm that the measured salinity is within expectations, which is less than 1.3 ppt above ambient salinity. Also ongoing monitoring of fish videos, infauna surveys and subtidal reef occur every 3 years as opposed to annually. This level of monitoring will still be able to determine if environmental impacts are occurring due to the operation of the desalination plant.
Notification and submissions
The changes to the licence are considered a relaxation under section 46 of the Environment Protection Act 1993. The notification process January and February 2015 allowed for public comments.
A range of background monitoring was required by the terms of the development approval and subsequently the licence issued by the EPA.
The monitoring, commissioned by Adelaide Aqua, was undertaken by independent scientific bodies including universities and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). The reports present conditions of the marine environment adjacent to the Adelaide desalination plant prior to operation and discharge.
The licence required further studies and reports to be undertaken over time to ascertain any changes in the marine environment. The reports are posted on the web once they are completed and received by the EPA.
In 2009, an application was submitted by Acciona Agua Adelaide Pty Ltd, McConnell Dowell Constructors Pty Ltd and Abigroup Contractors Pty Ltd (trading as AdelaideAqua) for a licence to operate the Adelaide Desalination Plant. The following prescribed activities of environmental significance were to be undertaken: discharges to marine or inland waters, and chemical storage and warehousing facilities.
This is for discharge of brine which will included some neutralised water treatment chemicals and the associated storage of water treatment chemicals at the Adelaide Desalination Plant, Chrysler Road, Lonsdale.
The EPA has imposed conditions on the licence to monitor and minimise any environmental impacts.
- Licence application
The application appendices are not available for download due to the size of the files; these are available from the EPA on request.
- Environmental performance summary report.
The public were invited to make written submissions regarding the licence application in January 2010 and submissions closed in February 2010.