14 October 2020

Evacuation plan initiated amid concerns Taralga Dam could burst

| Hannah Sparks
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Taralga Dam.

Emergency services have spent two days pumping water from Taralga Dam to prevent a burst. Photo: Supplied.

Emergency services have spent two days pumping water from a leaking dam in the southern NSW village of Taralga to prevent a burst.

The 27-megalitre Taralga Dam – which is about the size of five football fields – has been leaking for several years and recent rain put pressure on its lining, said Upper Lachlan Shire Council general manager Colleen Worthy.

Firefighters began draining the dam on Tuesday morning while members of the NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) knocked on residents’ doors to inform them of an emergency meeting outlining an evacuation plan that night.

Taralga Rural Fire Service captain John Sullivan said it would take crews about 20 hours to bring the dam to a safe level.

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He added that a large pump was transported to the dam from Sydney by Fire and Rescue NSW “to pump out a lot of water very quickly”, and that the village would not need to be evacuated if the water level was reduced to 30 per cent.

There are about 14 homes below the dam and the village centre and a child care facility would have been flooded if the dam wall burst, said NSW SES Collector unit commander Gary Poile, who led the door-knocking operation

The SES also had to alert authorities regarding the electrical infrastructure below the dam.

“Our priority was to make sure everyone was safe,” said Mr Poile.

Early water restrictions will be introduced in Taralga because the dam is limited to 30 per cent capacity until it is fixed, said Ms Worthy.

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“We don’t want to go heavy, but we do want people to respect that there’s only 30 per cent water in the dam and things such as car washing and excessive watering of plants aren’t a good idea,” she said.

The council had already reduced the dam from 90 per cent capacity to 65 per cent, but decided to drain more water ahead of the five days of rain predicted in the village from Friday, 16 October.

A draft engineer report to council revealed the dam wall could break following three days of heavy rain.

“Some people have said the leaks have been going for this long so why worry, but I don’t want one life or house gone in my time [as general manager],” said Ms Worthy.

The water is being pumped into Woolshed Creek, which supplies the dam through a weir. The water is then treated and supplied to Taralga residents.

“The dam is spring fed and fortunately they’re predicting a wet summer, which means we could maintain it at 30 per cent and get us through summer while other alternatives come into play,” said Ms Worthy.

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