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    Horsham Rural City Council councillor Robyn Gulline.

Gulline: Need for balanced solution on Quantong waste-water concerns

By Dean Lawson

Horsham mayor Robyn Gulline has spoken of a need to help find an appropriate solution if a new major manufacturer in the rural city loses a bid to dispose of waste-water at Quantong.

Cr Gulline said the success of Australian Plant Proteins in finding a way to effectively manage its wastewater represented a challenge and important part of industrial development in the municipality.

“Putting all the very important and detailed planning issues aside for a moment, there are a couple of big-picture issues here,” she said.

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“One is that the health of our communities, socio-economic, physical or environmental, must be paramount in council thinking and direction.  

“The other is that we must be able to accommodate and encourage large-scale agricultural value-adding enterprises to establish here.

“We are in the heart of one of the most productive broadacre agricultural areas in the country. 

“In moving forward we must have the ability to quickly manoeuvre to meet development opportunities, but at the same time do this without compromising our communities. It is about finding the balance.”

The future of a project to establish a Water Sustainability Farm in Lanes Road, Quantong, primarily to take and treat salty water from Australian Plant Proteins factory in Horsham, is in the hands of Environment Protection Authority Victoria.

The authority is assessing circumstances after organising an independently led community conference at Quantong last week. 

Expectations are that the authority will announce a decision next month.

Water Sustainability Farm initially proposed to manage two APP waste streams at the Quantong site – an average of 57,000 litres of brine and up to 5000 kilograms a day of dewatered sludge compost. The business proposed to concentrate the brine through solar evaporation in four drying basins and dry the compost sludge in windrows on a drying pad.

Developers have since modified plans to consider an alternative disposal method for the sludge, a value-adding waste product created from the process of developing Wimmera-grown plant-protein powder. They also announced a willingness to change truck access into the site.

But a group of Quantong residents remain unmoved in strong opposition to the project.

The group has consistently raised concerns about the site’s impact on the environment, property values, lifestyle and the future of farm and tourism business opportunities.

Members have vowed to continue to fight the development regardless of the EPA decision.

The project will also need a council planning permit to proceed.

Blossoming demand for plant-based protein powder has led to millions of investment dollars flowing into Horsham-based Australian Plant Proteins, set to lift its workforce to about 50.

But the future of the company’s tenure or expansion in Horsham might hinge on finding a suitable solution for its wastewater.

The entire June 9, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!