Qld Gladstone Ports blames toxic turbidity loophole

Gladstone Ports blames toxic turbidity in World Heritage Area on spring tide loophole.

The Queensland Greens have called on the Department of Environment and Resource Management to amend Gladstone Ports Corporation environmental licence conditions so that it excludes the natural variation clause and high turbidity is appropriately managed when turbidity levels are exceeded.

“Turbidity levels in the dredge plume site (ST1) were exceeded for 4 days over Christmas from 23rd to the 27th ," Queensland Greens state spokesperson, Dr Libby Connors said this afternoon.

“This was a toxic Christmas present for Gladstone harbour, but the data was not released until today, so the public were unaware of the dangers during this holiday period.”

The Gladstone ports have stated today that "the primary cause was the high spring tides experienced in the harbour." The Gladstone Ports Corporation also confirmed letters were sent out last month to state and federal MP's seeking support to remove the Gladstone Harbour from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Environment Minister Vicki Darling in November stated if further review indicated a need for DERM to amend the dredging approval conditions in this World Heritage, area the department would take immediate action, however she has not taken action and the Gladstone Ports continue to use this loophole. The natural variation clause was meant to cover cyclones, floods and other extreme events not high and low tides.

Greens member and environmental medicine specialist, Dr Andrew Jeremijenko stated that raised turbidity poses health threats to marine animals and humans.

Dr Jeremijenko said that Gladstone’s acid sulphate soils and suspended metals in particular aluminium, a known marine toxin, were mobilised in the dredging sediment during turbid conditions.

“It poses a range of health problems for fish, sharks, prawns and other aquatic organisms,” he said.

“The high turbidity can also impact human health.

“The gills of fish are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of aluminium and there was a significantly greater amount of aluminium found in the gills of diseased fish than in their muscle and liver. People who were fishing over the Christmas period need to be aware of the dangers of the turbid waters.’ Dr Jeremijenko said.

“The high nutrient levels can lead to greater risk of skin infections for humans and diseased fish should not be eaten.

“The Gladstone ports should report exceedances and actions taken such as stopping the dredging as required in the dredge management plan.

“It is clear they are having impacts on the environment which is why they have requested delisting from the World Heritage area.”

Contact: Dr Andrew Jeremijenko 0438 372 653

Note: State spokesperson Libby Connors is not available 4-18 January.

For Greens comment on Gladstone harbour issues please contact Dr Jeremijenko;
For comment on all other state matters please contact the state election campaign coordinator Michael Kane on 0438 766 230.