Katherine's new water treatment plant will not be operational until next year.
The timeline on the construction of the $15 million plant, designed to clean all PFAS contamination from the town's drinking water, was again pushed back today.
It means residents will have to adhere to strict water restrictions again particularly during the crucial months at the end of the dry season for the fourth year in a row.
Katherine Times was today invited to the Morris Road plant to see construction work had begun on the plant.
Power and Water's senior water and waste water engineer Skefos Tsoukalis said the work was "moving ahead at breakneck speed".
He said the plant was now expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2021.
Earlier plans to start the plant in stages have been abandoned.
Mr Tsoukalis said it was more important "to get it right".
It is not the first delay, residents were initially told the plant would be ready by the end of 2019.
Power and Water officials earlier in the year told Katherine Times their earlier projections for the finish of the project were "overly optimistic".
The delays have been blamed on the world-first technology needed to remove the PFAS chemicals which were first identified as contaminating the town's drinking water almost four years ago.
PFAS was contained in firefighting foams used in training at the Tindal RAAF Base which continue to leach off the base and into the groundwater which flows directly under Katherine and into the river.
There is no other community the size of Katherine anywhere else in Australia which has been impacted by the PFAS crisis in this way.
Katherine remains the only Australian town to be forced onto water restrictions because of PFAS and the Government says those restrictions will likely stay even when the new plant is producing some of the best quality drinking water anywhere in Australia.
Some of the key pieces of the plant, which is being paid for by Defence, are a series of 21 carbon steel pressure vessels which have been shipped from the US.
Mr Tsoukalis said most of those pieces, the tanks and the resin, were now on site.
He said a number of key contracts should be decided in the next few weeks.
The American-made plant uses a resin to trap the PFAS for removal and later disposal, most often through incineration.
The plant is designed around three series of tanks, or "trains" as they are called by water engineers.
Each train can remove PFAS from five megalitres of water every day.
The plant is designed to produced 10 megalitres of super clean water for Katherine each day, with the third train of five megalitres, as an added redundancy to allow for maintenance on the other trains.
The plant uses the same ECT2 technology being used in the emergency plant rushed to Katherine in August 2017 which treats just one megalitre of water a day.
Today Power and Water said the pilot PFAS water treatment plant had successfully treated over one billion litres of groundwater from the two contaminated bores which are used to supplement Katherine River supplies.
"To continue providing safe drinking water for Katherine residents is a huge responsibility for Power and Water," Mr Tsoukalis said.
"It has been a very difficult and challenging few years for everyone while we came to terms with the PFAS contamination issue and how it could be managed. It hasn't been an easy road for the community."
The Katherine community was praised for being supportive of the compulsory conservation measures introduced to help protect the water supply.
Under these measures, demand was reduced by 20 per cent, about two million litres per day.
"We need to keep working together to be water smart to maintain a safe drinking water supply," Mr Tsoukalis said.
"Katherine residents have become great water efficiency champions, demonstrating tremendous responsibility in valuing this precious resource - thank you for your support and patience, and sharing this obligation to help keep water use down.
"While it's been a long journey, we can be confident in the long-term solution for Katherine with proven technology and that's a great achievement."
The new treatment plant is due to be fully commissioned early next year.
There are two similar one megalitre plants already in operation at the Tindal RAAF Base trying to reduce the amount of PFAS still leaking off the base into the aquifer.
It is expected those plants will have to pump away from many years to make an appreciable difference given the size of the acquifer.
The Katherine water treatment plant is being paid for by the Defence Department which has admitted causing the contamination.
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