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The 'plug and produce' plant improving water quality in a remote NT community

Improving drinking water quality in one of the Northern Territory’s most remote communities required an emphasis on community engagement, innovation and imagination.

Upgrading the Borroloola water treatment plant was six years in the making for Power and Water Corporation Senior Project Manager Eric Vanweydeveld, who will discuss this journey at the Australian Water Association's NT Water in the Bush Conference next month.

This includes the challenges of working in such a remote location.

While Borroloola has the basics – a few shops, a health centre, school, post office and police station – anything more specialised generally requires a trip to the nearest major centre, Katherine, which is about 700 kilometres away.

“Borroloola is so remote, and the treatment plant site itself is remote compared to the town,” Vanweydeveld said.

“This makes the social, environmental and geographical elements of the project very complicated … You have to come up with different strategies and have a bit of imagination to overcome some massive challenges.”

This meant Power and Water needed to take an innovative approach to constructing the plant.

The utility went with a 'plug and produce' modular system designed to fit in shipping containers.

The plant’s components were assembled, connected and pre-tested in Darwin before being sent to Borroloola via road train for the commissioning.

Aside from providing cost savings – the price of concrete in Borroloola is about five times that of Darwin – it was also easier to deal with contingencies such as a malfunctioning part.

“It was easier to do the construction in Darwin because it has all the supplies," Vanweydeveld said.

"It’s a day of travelling to get to Borroloola by car and it’s very expensive to charter a plane, so to limit the risks and cost, we decided to go with this approach."

To hear more about the innovative $6.4 million Borroloola treatment plant, don't miss Eric Vanweydeveld's presentation at the AWA's NT Water in the Bush conference, held in Darwin from 17 to 18 October. To learn more and to register, click here.