No easy answer in dam review

31st July 2019

Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Max McKinney | Posted: July 31, 2019

A review of technical advice used by the Office of Sport to close Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre has recommended "further analysis" to "allow better determination" of the risks to the centre from Eraring power station's ash dam in the event of a major earthquake.

The eagerly-awaited review appears to have raised more questions than answers after determining there was "plausible risk" to users of the centre as indicated by Origin Energy's engineering reports, but recommending further investigations.

It concludes "a number of aspects of the work completed to date" require further analysis and, upon completion, a detailed risk assessment should be undertaken with the results to "provide a valuable tool to help decision makers" determine if the centre should be closed.

Sports Minister John Sidoti has ordered the extra analysis be undertaken and told parliament no decision on the centre's status would be made until it was complete.

"The additional work has commenced and I have been advised that the technical information required to provide an informed decision about the centre will be available by early September," he said.

"I am determined to ensure that the safety of NSW residents is a priority and that we have all the information needed to make the right decision about the long-term viability of the Myuna Bay centre.

"Staff will remain on full pay until the future of the centre is determined."

Mr Sidoti said the NSW Dams Safety Committee had facilitated the review, which was completed by SMEC Australia.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper expressed frustration at the review, saying it will mean further months in limbo for the centre and its staff.

Permanent staff have been on special leave since the centre closed on March 29.

"Unfortunately the review ... fails to determine the actual degree of risk posed to Myuna Bay by a break in [the] ash dam wall," he said.

"The review made 12 recommendations. Of those, 11 relate to technical methodologies in the Origin report, but the other calls for a detailed risk assessment that 'will help decision makers determine if Myuna Bay, Wangi Road and public facilities downstream of the dam should be closed'."

Mr Piper said it was "clear" the risk was "incredibly low".

"I find it somewhat ironic that the review also noted another internal report by Origin Energy which found there was no risk posed to its workers on the ash dam," he said.

"So Origin has a report which says it's entirely safe for its staff to be working on the ash dam, but another report which warns of catastrophic collapse in the event of an earthquake and orders the immediate shutdown of a major public facility next door.

"It's mind-boggling."

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