No end to water woes at BITS field
WATER water everywhere - but hardly a blade of grass.
Gladstone Regional Council's attempts to restore to health the sports fields at Boyne Tannum are falling flat.
The grounds dried up after council found water from ponds it was using was contaminated and switched off the supply. It has now installed five tanks and linked them to the existing sprinkling system.
But nine months after the water supply was first turned off, the fields are still dry and some clubs are being forced to pay for water.
The council is being tight-lipped on the problem and has refused to answer The Observer's questions on the new system, which replaced water from open dams at the end of the wastewater treatment process.
The clubs say water is being fed into the sprinkler system, but in many places simply bubbles out of the sprinkler head creating huge pools and leaving bright green patches. Or there is no water at all.
It's having a particularly negative impact on the golf club; water is washing away the sand bunkers, the fairways are dying and since October membership is down.
It's cost them 55 members, four days' worth of takings (between $1000 and $2000 a day) while the council attempted to fix the sprinkler system, and their reputation.
The new sprinkler system has also left them with less water than before, which doesn't bode well for a club hoping to add five more holes.
In an email addressed to Boyne Tannum Golf Club President Clint Storch, the council said the decrease in water was unavoidable; "It is what it is and there is little that can be done," a staff member wrote.
However, the golf club disagrees.
They've offered to pay to install another tank, and the additional sprinklers for the expansion, an idea that hasn't been met with enthusiasm by the council.
Mr Storch says while the council responds quickly to email queries about the sprinkler system, and has assured the club it will keep working until the issue is resolved, there is no evidence anything has changed.
The council has told the golf club the sprinklers would be on between 11pm and 2am, yet when club captain Craig Topfer went to the course on Wednesday at midnight, not a single sprinkler was working.
"I feel pretty disgruntled," Mr Storch said.
"Haven't we got the right to request a meeting? We're not demanding things, we just want to talk to them and find out why the system has been designed this way."
Boyne Tannum Cricket Club coordinator Neville Judd is worried his club is looking at a huge water bill after using potable water to keep the cricket pitch alive over summer.
Mr Judd said the issue annoying people most was the council's secretive attitude and refusal to clearly outline the problem to the affected clubs.
"We knew they would have trouble with blocked lines," Mr Judd said.
"But since the start of this the council wasn't really ever keen on giving away facts and I think that has really annoyed a lot of people."
The Observer understands the final solution has already cost at least $200,000, although that wasn't confirmed by the council.
Wastewater had been used for more than a decade, but was stopped when the ''significant public health risk'' was found.
The Observer sent water samples from three different ponds to an independent lab and found it contained E.coli levels more than double the legal limit. Only then did council confirm that issue.
How it unfolded
April: The council shut off the recycled water supply
August: Grounds have deteroriated so much, water is being trucked in
October: The council says it will install water tanks and new pumps as the "final solution"
February: The expected "teething problems" are yet to be resolved
Glen Fletcher, BITS Club pro golfer talks about his water woes, July 2015: