31 January, 2024
‘It was Armageddon’
THE floods after Cyclone Jasper, which destroyed communities and houses in the Douglas Shire – and which also caused critical drinking water shortages – have been described as “Armageddon” by the shire’s chief executive officer.
Rachel Brophy told councillors at this week’s monthly meeting that the weather event was not just “unprecedented”, it was “Armageddon”.
She said the flooding caused when the Bloomfield River broke its banks, and was continuing to break its banks, was not a 1-in-100 year or 1-in-500 year flood event, but a 1-in-2000 year disaster.
Ms Brophy said since the cyclone, 4.1m of rain had fallen in the shire when the national yearly average was 418mm.
She said turbidity levels in drinking water was acceptable at one part of dirt and silt to one part of water but currently it was between 50 and 75 parts.
Ms Brophy said, as well as turbidity, there was ageing infrastructure which was breaking down.
She said the local disaster management group was still operating 50 days after the cyclone and communities which remained cut-off included Cape Tribulation, China Camp, Upper Daintree and Degarra.
Ms Brophy said there were specialist engineers working with council staff and it was expected with the help of the state government and the Queensland Reconstruction Authority the rebuilding of the water network would “make it better and future-proof”.
The council has given Ms Brophy the authority to negotiate with key stakeholders and senior state government officials for urgent repairs to the water intake and treatment system.
Mayor Michael Kerr said the many landslips and frequent rain were resulting in more debris in rivers and creeks that was clogging up the intakes.
But Cr Ray Zammataro said in the four years is a councillor – and as a plumber – he had been arguing that the water network needed upgrading and nothing had been done.
Cr Abigail Noli said the council had been working on an application for a water licence for a second creek intake since “well before 2020” and it was still not completed.
She said if the second intake had been operational the shire would not have the current water issue.
Deputy mayor Cr Lisa Scomazzon wanted a full report on the costs of Cyclone Jasper while Cr Peter McKeown called on the council to simplify its communications to the public about the water shortage in “simple English” instead of using words many did not understand.