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Australia Earth Science

Australia OKs Dumping Dredge Waste In Barrier Reef 277

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-anywhere dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has approved the dumping of 3 million cubic meters of dredge waste in park waters. The decision has been blasted by environmentalists. 'This is a sad day for the reef and anyone who cares about its future,' said WWF Great Barrier Reef campaigner Richard Leck. 'The World Heritage Committee will take a dim view of this decision, which is in direct contravention of one of its recommendations.'"
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Australia OKs Dumping Dredge Waste In Barrier Reef

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  • Sign the petition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:11PM (#46137819)

    This might help:

    https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/coal-seam-gas/unesco-great-barrier-reef

    It's absolutely disgraceful that politicians can be so short sighted as to allow this to happen. It makes my blood boil.

    • Re:Sign the petition (Score:5, Interesting)

      by deek (22697) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:51AM (#46138321) Homepage Journal

      The conditions require that sediment entering the marine park be reduced by 150 percent over the long term -- a "net benefit" to water quality -- and that $81 million be contributed to reef conservation programs and specific measures observed to protect marine flora and fauna.

      It's important to note the sea floor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds.

        Hmmm, this decision could actually be a benefit to the reef, not a detraction. I'd hope so, considering the park authority approved it. These are people who love the reef, are tasked with the job of protecting the reef, and are presumably experts in marine ecology and environment. They approved it. I'd say it's a very good chance that they made a good decision.

      • Re:Sign the petition (Score:5, Interesting)

        by weilawei (897823) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:32AM (#46138643) Homepage
        That's known as an appeal to authority. We hear them a lot on /., usually in reference to some policy made "for the children" or "to protect us". Save it for someone who cares. Citations or GTFO and don't make uselessly speculative comments. For example, you could cite WHICH experts approved it, since that would allow us to more easily judge if there's a financial motive or other outstanding bias which should not have factored into their decision, above and beyond their expert status.
        • by weilawei (897823)
          Replying to myself in terrible form: I know you said "park authority" but this is a US-centric website. Maybe some details on the individuals within this, presumably large and heterogeneous, group that actually used their wisdom to make a decision? That's really what I'm driving at with asking you to cite, in this instance.
      • Re:Sign the petition (Score:5, Informative)

        by thegarbz (1787294) on Monday February 03, 2014 @04:47AM (#46139027)

        You mean the park authority headed up by these guys? [abc.net.au]

        Colour me sceptical that this is such a great benefit to the reef.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Sounds awful like "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" to me. I American politics by the time Tuesday rolls around it's renamed some sort of "cliff" and the payment is further deferred. The plan sounds like it could be good for the reef but I think the protect the reef lobby has good reason to be suspicious

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dantoo (176555)

      Hilarious the way the ultra-green misrepresent this stuff. Boldly lie and keep telling lies and the world just loves to be outraged. I've even seen some US media reporting that the spoils will be dumped on coral!.

      What a load of crap. Simply moving dredge spoil from one place to another and under incredibly strict guidelines. The actual reef is 40 miles away from where this is happening and the local rivers spew far more "spoil" into the area every year from the rainy season. Stupid people believing the

      • Re:Sign the petition (Score:4, Informative)

        by weilawei (897823) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:41AM (#46138665) Homepage
        The site for the material to be placed is approximately 17 miles away. Where do you get 40? The initial location? Irrelevant. I could scoop it off the moon, and as long as I put it 17 miles from the reef, it'd still be 17 miles away from where "this is happening". I'm not arguing whether it's environmentally sound or not, but I do think that fudging numbers and using them creatively is a bad policy. Try harder next time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mashiki (184564)

        We see the same thing in Canada, the main perpetrators are the Tides Foundation and the WWF. It's gotten bad enough that they're paying money to native groups in order to create an artificial voice on an issue. [sunnewsnetwork.ca]

        And before some liberal moonbat starts whining "omg sunnews" just remember, that out of all the other networks in Canada, they were the only one doing a story on it at first. Because natives are a "sensitive issue" here so they don't want to offend them.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Yeah, damn that sucks, imagine them polluting the ocean with dirt from the ocean! The least they could do is clean it first.
      We could get lots of volunteers to clean the dirt and place it carefully where it could sustain an underwater garden and recycle this filthy dirt into something useful.
      If there arent enough volunteers we can always get all the lobotomies from the mental health center to help.
      If God had wanted dirt at the bottom of the ocean, he wouldve put it there. If God had wanted fish to swim in di

  • By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:13PM (#46137831)

    And by "reef", they mean a patch of silt 25km away from the actual reef.

    • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mjwx (966435) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:27PM (#46137915)

      And by "reef", they mean a patch of silt 25km away from the actual reef.

      You do know that 25 KM is not a long distance, it's only 17 miles if you're not competent with metric measurements.

      25 KM will easily be covered by currents.

      The federal Australian government is also attempting to have the old growth forests in Tasmania de-listed as a world heritage area so they can log there.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        25 KM will easily be covered by currents.

        Implying that the current flows from the dump site towards the reef?

        • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mjwx (966435) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:39PM (#46137971)

          25 KM will easily be covered by currents.

          Implying that the current flows from the dump site towards the reef?

          Implying that things in the water will only go one way?

          Along with currents you also have sea life and humans that will also move detritus quite easily.

          You might not be familiar with water, but things dumped in the water (especially particulate matter like silt) rarely stays where you dump it.

          • Re:By reef... (Score:4, Informative)

            by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:15AM (#46138149)

            I'm getting the feeling that it is you who are unfamiliar with water. Whatever it takes, it dilutes to minuscule particles very quickly. Only solid stuff that does not degrade in salt water quickly such as certain types of plastic gets noticeable, and that just gets stuffed inside one of the ocean's great gyros which are trashed with plastic anyway.

            Otherwise you're going to have to conduct a costly chemical analysis looking for particles to notice it. As an example, a motherload of all dumps was taken in the Baltic after WW2, we're talking chemical weapons, biological weapons, explosives, chemical waste on massive scale. The basin has minimal flow into the ocean. Tdoay it's still clean enough that people can swim in it, it's full of fish that is safe to eat (as much as overfishing allows) and so on.

            And here you're whining about an area size of a Germany in the middle of the biggest ocean on the planet and about other people not having a clue about water? Really?

            • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Dutchmaan (442553) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:36AM (#46138243) Homepage
              "After all, what's just "a little bit more" gonna do..."
              Next time: "After all, what's just "a little bit more" gonna do..."
              Next time: "After all, what's just "a little bit more" gonna do..."
              Next time: "After all, what's just "a little bit more" gonna do..."
              Next time: "After all, what's just "a little bit more" gonna do..."
              Next time: "After all, what's just "a little bit more" gonna do..."
              • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

                by Luckyo (1726890)

                That is certainly the attitude of the modern green movement, which has led it to where it is today - whining about things that have no relevance to green ideology.

            • by dwywit (1109409)

              'Taint in the middle of the pacific. Hint: search for "great barrier reef marine park" on google maps.

              It's also a rather fragile ecosystem that's already under pressure - some natural, some man-made.

              OTOH, dredging spoil (mostly mud and sand) is *already* in the water, they're only moving it from the harbours/estuaries further out. There *might* be problem with nutrient load.

              • by Luckyo (1726890)

                Translation: there is no problem whatsoever. The area is about size of Germany. If it could be harmed by movement of earth on the bottom of the ocean, reef would not exist today. Ocean waters move far, far greater amounts of the stuff around every day.

                • by dwywit (1109409)

                  Did you mean the dumping ground is the size of germany? No.

                  The spoil is a nutrient source, some of which are microscopic particles which won't just drop straight to the ocean floor - currents will send it hither and yon. If it washes over coral, the coral will react. Tropical coral DOESN'T LIKE strong nutrient loads. As another commenter has mentioned coral also doesn't like lack of sunlight - even highly dispersed particulates will reduce the sunlight reaching the coral.

                  The sand component will tend to sett

              • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

                by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:11AM (#46138747) Journal
                Clear water is essential since coral needs sunlight to survive. You won't get a tropical reef without mangroves, mangroves hold the silt in place at the river mouth and keep the reef water clear. They are so effective as a filter for fine particulate matter that they clean the filthy outflow from the Ganges and provide the crystal clear waters where some spectacular reefs can be found. These people are building the largest coal port in the world, it's a $30 billion project. This site was chosen because it was cheap and convenient, I don't think a few extra bucks to dump it in deep water off the continental shelf is too much to ask given the perceived risk to the tourist and fishing industries that rely on a healthy reef.

                The silt found in the dumping area is not "already in the water", it's on the sea bed. It's only a problem to coral if someone stirs it up to the point it starts blocking sunlight.
            • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

              by Pav (4298) on Monday February 03, 2014 @05:42AM (#46139169)
              I've just been speaking to a friend of mine who studied marine biology at James Cook University (a world leader in this kind of thing) and is a bit of a fish nerd. There's a reason the reef only starts 30km offshore. Coral is evolved for low nutrient low sediment conditions. Milky water cuts the light, and extra nutrients encourage filimentous algae which basically take over and shade the coral. Even the seagrass beds are very fragile especially at the moment after the natural disasters (floods, cyclones etc...) we've been having lately - the Southern Dugong is almost extinct. This stuff is widely known and care is taken even down to the building site level etc... to control sediment runoff. Apparently at the micro scale we need to worry about this, but at the macro scale it's no worries mate.
              • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

                by Pav (4298) on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:02AM (#46139229)
                This [gladstonec...cil.com.au] paper is probably also relevant. It's about crabs from the commercial fishery near Gladstone developing holes in their shells. The conclusion was dredging was exposing anerobic sediments to oxygen releasing copper, arsenic and a bunch of other metals and compounds which had a detrimental effect on sea life.
          • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:18AM (#46138171)

            Could that be why they are dumping at a site where silt normally settles?

          • by MrKaos (858439)

            You might not be familiar with water, but things dumped in the water (especially particulate matter like silt) rarely stays where you dump it.

            No, that's not right. Tidal movements in that part of the world are 7-10 METRES, which means a humungous amount of water is moving in those areas - which is why the coral lives there in the first place.

            It's pretty amazing to walk on the sea bed that you were swimming over the day before.

        • by quenda (644621)

          The Marine Park is 345,000 square km - the size of Germany!
          I'm sure they can find somewhere suitable.

          • Clive Palmer (Score:5, Informative)

            by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 03, 2014 @05:26AM (#46139119) Journal
            The balance of power in the senate is unclear after the recent election, but "billionaire miner" and newly minted federal Senator, Clive Palmer has collected a few oddball independent senators under his "PUP" party banner. Their oddball nature is what makes the balance uncertain, also AFAIK there is nothing in writing, it's been all press talks where Palmer did most of the talking. However, what is clear is that if the oddballs remain loyal to Palmer, then Palmer holds all the cards. In essence he will have the "umpire" vote whenever the major parties disagree.

            Now here's the unsurprising news about the money trail - The project we are discussing is a joint venture between "mining magnates" Gina Reinhart, and you guessed it, Senator Clive Palmer.

            I'm sure they can find somewhere suitable.

            Yes, and that place is the open ocean beyond the reef or as clean landfill, but "doing the right thing" would mean Clive and Gina (world's richest woman) would have to spend the money they thought they could save by socialising the risks involved.

            At the end of the day it's really quite simple, parks are not created for use as cheap landfill sites for the mining industry, why such an application would even be considered is beyond me. Worse still if the government were to reverse the decision, they will probably be sued for the extra costs and several million mugs like me will end up paying their costs anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LordLucless (582312)

        You do know that if I said I was dumping a million tonnes of rubble on your house, and then actually dumped it 25km away, your house wouldn't be crushed, right? If the currents are able to move silt from the dump site to the reef, then they are already doing so - nothing's being dumped that isn't already there.

        As for Tasmania, almost 50% of the entire state is currently world heritage listed. I don't think de-listing a fraction of a percent of that is going to cause much damage.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          You do know that if I said I was dumping a million tonnes of rubble on your house, and then actually dumped it 25km away, your house wouldn't be crushed, right?

          Only a tiny amount of the crap you dump needs to get to my house in order for it to be damaged and become unliveable.

          There's a good reason they don't dump a million tonnes of rubble near residential zones. the dust kicked up alone would play havoc with local residents.

          As for Tasmania, almost 50% of the entire state is currently world heritage listed. I don't think de-listing a fraction of a percent of that is going to cause much damage.

          Again, there are good reasons for this. There isn't another environment like Tasmania in the world. But developing sustainable forestry is hard and cutting down old growth is easy. No point in even trying sustainable forestry (not like we'

          • Re:By reef... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by LordLucless (582312) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:50PM (#46138027)

            There's a good reason they don't dump a million tonnes of rubble near residential zones. the dust kicked up alone would play havoc with local residents.

            For how long? You might get a couple of dusty days until it all settles down again. Hardly a national emergency. The reason they don't dump tonnes of rubble in residential zones is because the land is more valuable as real estate than a dumping ground, and millions of tonnes of rubble takes up a whole lotta space.

            But developing sustainable forestry is hard and cutting down old growth is easy. No point in even trying sustainable forestry (not like we're running out of old growth now are we).

            They've got plenty of sustainable forestry. But you can't scale up an industry if there's nowhere for it to scale out to - you need cleared land to plant the sustainable-growth forest. I'd have no problem with Tasmania limiting their own industry, if they weren't getting subsidised by the other states to keep them above water while they did it (Tasmania gets about twice the GST revenue, per capita, as most other states - NT being the exception).

            • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 03, 2014 @05:46AM (#46139179) Journal

              The reason they don't dump tonnes of rubble in residential zones is because the land is more valuable as real estate than a dumping ground, and millions of tonnes of rubble takes up a whole lotta space.

              Sound logic, I'm an Aussie taxpayer and I think a marine park is more valuable as a breeding ground for fish than a private dumping ground for Senator Clive Palmer's unwanted land fill.

          • by swillden (191260)

            There's a good reason they don't dump a million tonnes of rubble near residential zones.

            Sure they do. There are lots of places where there are landfills right next to residential areas.

            • I don't mind my government creating (discrete) residential dumping grounds that will be repurposed as parks when full, however I do have a problem when they turn existing parks into dumping grounds.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spongman (182339)

          Given that matter is significantly more mobile in water it's more like dumping a million tons of crap 25 meters from your house. You'd be ok with that, would you?

        • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday February 03, 2014 @05:36AM (#46139151) Homepage Journal

          As for Tasmania, almost 50% of the entire state is currently world heritage listed.

          Are you sure about that? [tas.gov.au] Closer to 20% it would seem.

          I don't think de-listing a fraction of a percent of that ....

          A fraction of a percent? They're de-listing ~74000 hectares of 1.4 million. Thats closer to 20%.

          ...is going to cause much damage.

          You can't even get basic facts right & you expect people to believe your assessment of what will cause much damage? Even by slashdot standards, you're a fuckwit.

      • The federal Australian government is also attempting to have the old growth forests in Tasmania de-listed as a world heritage area so they can log there.

        If anyone wants to see how gorgeous Tasmania is, check out the Willem Dafoe movie "The Hunter" - the landscapes are stunning.

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt17... [imdb.com]

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:52PM (#46138035)

        You do know that 25 KM is not a long distance, it's only 17 miles if you're not competent with metric measurements.
         

        And only 15.5 miles if you are competent with Metric to English conversions.

        • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:08AM (#46138405)

          Or, you know, Americans could just adapt when they come to visit.

          Lots of scary things in Australia - the metric system, driving on the left, dunnies that flush the opposite direction, 240V AC, summer in February etc.

          • by weilawei (897823)
            If you're scared by those things, you must really be overexaggerating the danger of the wildlife. ;)
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          And only 13.5 miles, if you convert to nautical miles in nautical areas.
        • You do know that 25 KM is not a long distance, it's only 17 miles if you're not competent with metric measurements.

          And only 15.5 miles if you are competent with Metric to English conversions.

          Arrr... but at sea we use nautical miles, ye clueless landlubber.

    • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:46PM (#46137997)

      And by "reef", they mean a patch of silt 25km away from the actual reef.

      And Deepwater Horizon was 77km (48 miles) from shore. This just in: ocean currents move stuff around.

      • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:28AM (#46138201)

        Deepwater Horizon involved oil which floats, not heavy dredging spoil which by definition does not. Sure, currents move sediment on the ocean floor around, but not much. And bear in mind that the GBR region already has any number of major rivers flowing into it which dump millions of tons of sediment into the area every year; sediment which, moreover, is full of agricultural chemicals and fertilizer. When you see a picture of the GBR it's inevitably of high grade coral surrounded by brilliant aquatic fauna. What you don't see is that 99.99% of the region is not reef, it's just normal continental shelf, an area the size of Germany (as someone else said). The occasional dredging operation or ship hitting the bottom in the GBR region are near irrelevant. They are just high profile trivialities for environmentalists to grasp and use to excite the general public. The real threats to the GBR are global warming and farm runoff.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        And if the Deepwater Horizon was digging up dredging sludge no one would have noticed as it wouldn't have made it far before sinking.

        Oil floats, sand doesn't. Comparing one to the other is nonsensical.

    • by Dan B. (20610)

      It's actually 25km off the coast, not 25km from the reef. And by that, it means a dump site between the coast and the reef, not the ocean and off the continental shelf.

      The sludge will increase the turbidity of the inner reef waters (cloudiness from the amount of suspended solids) and will carry well beyond the dump site. It's not toxic waste, but it is not pristine white sand either. The real problem though is the volume of the dump; 3 million m3 is a lot of material to spread over the sea floor.

      Here are so

  • As an Australian, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mjwx (966435)
    I'd like to say I'm categorically not OK with dumping waste here.

    Sadly the state and federal governments are completely ignoring what the majority of the people want.
    • Re:As an Australian, (Score:4, Interesting)

      by coolsnowmen (695297) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:31PM (#46137931)

      As an average American, I understand.

    • by jonwil (467024)

      Not surprising considering the state government has the largest majority in the history of Queensland and thinks they can do whatever they like and the federal government has been breaking promises left and right (on everything from education to welfare to tax reform to broadband) and has an environmental policy that is essentially "give the big end of town whatever they want and to hell with the environment"

    • As an Australian with some ability to read and the knowledge that this "waste" is sand sucked up from the seabed a short distance away I am absolutely ok with them making navigation channels and harbours safer for really really big ships full of fuel oil, gas, coal and other shit that I REALLY REALLY don't want to end up on the reef.

      • Re:As an Australian, (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mjwx (966435) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:19AM (#46138453)

        As an Australian with some ability to read and the knowledge that this "waste" is sand sucked up from the seabed a short distance away

        As an Australian with quite an ability to read, the ability to think and quite a bit of understanding on the subject, the "waste" is called silt and being quite fine (extremely fine sand) tends to travel quite a distance when dumped... This is why it cant be dumped closer to Abbott point, because it'll go straight back into the channel they were dredging.

        So dumping it on the great barrier reef is easier as transporting it to a safe dumping zone is expensive.

        You seem to think it's OK because it's sand, this is where your understanding of the subject ends, coral you see doesn't do too well when sand gets dumped on it and 25 KM away is definitely not far enough to ensure the silt does not reach the reef. Realistically the expansion at Abbott point should never have been approved.

        • by robbak (775424) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:48AM (#46138859) Homepage

          They have chosen a safe dumping zone where the movement of silt won't cause problems. But the entire east coast of Queensland, however, is the marine park, so all the safe dumping zones are inside the 'park'. So that means that GBRMPA has to check the details and make sure that what the engineers have worked out is a safe dumping zone is actually one, and that the currents won't take large quantities of fine silt onto reefs. They have done so, worked out that it is, and the world moves on.

          Now whether anyone should be digging up coal and shipping it to places where it will be burnt is another matter. But the placement of the dredge spoil is simple engineering.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:26PM (#46137913)

    And like most other pronouncements made by a government authority which are expected to attract negative publicity, this decision was made and released on a Friday afternoon.

    Had it been something for which the government authority wanted maximum publicity, they would have made the announcement at the start of the week. (Sunday. Monday.)

    I hate it when government departments work the news cycle ... it feels dirty.

  • I guess the Australian Government also joined the list of governments who knows that the people can't do shit about anything.
  • Abbot Point is about exporting massive amounts of coal. The Abbott Government is the most anti-environmental I have seen in my life of 62 years. He himself is a climate change skeptic and he was elected on a platform of repealing the Carbon Tax. We are only in the first year of this vandals office. After 3 years he will have done untold damage and the apathetic voters will probably vote him in again. We love economic growth and we don't want the party to end. Environmental stuff is just a party spoiler. I'm
  • Storm in a teacup. (Score:4, Informative)

    by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:53AM (#46138883)
    The waste is just sand and a bit of mud (not toxic at all) and they are *not* dumping it on the reef. They are dumping it in a barren stretch of sand that doesn't even have any seagrass or notable life. It is far enough away from the actual reef to not be an issue and they have a maximum amount per year they can dump and a window that they are allowed to do it in (outside of spawning season).

    If environmentalists want to be taken seriously they should not cry wolf.

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