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Australia Earth Science

Australia OKs Dumping Dredge Waste In Barrier Reef 277

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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  • By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:13AM (#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 Monday February 03, 2014 @12:27AM (#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.

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

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:08AM (#46138119)

    And 3 million cubic tons of debris won't have impact? Seeing as how it's waste materials and full of toxins, and waters have currents and such, it could potentially do a lot of damage. Yeah yeah, it's dredge materials they are dumping. That means it's full of runoff and shit you surely would not want in your garden.

    It's stuff they dug up from the seabed, which they're dumping onto the seabed. It's silt, sand and clay, and it's processed to remove any incidental toxic matter before it's dumped.

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

    by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:15AM (#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, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:28AM (#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.

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

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:30AM (#46138211)

    Since the purpose of the dredging operation is to move the shit from one spot on the floor of the ocean to another, in its entirety, it is NOT "waste".

    No, the purpose of the dredging operation is to expand the coal port at Abbott Point.

    The problem is that they're ignoring legitimate environmental concerns (and to the barrier reef, silt is waste) for financial convenience because it would cost more to dump it somewhere else that isn't right next a fragile ecosystem.

    They are using scare words to get you whipped into a righteous frenzy

    You are attempting to oversimplify things because you cant understand the real concerns here.

    You are also attempting to prevent legitimate rebuttals of your point by attacking the person and using thought terminating cliches because your point isn't strong enough to stand on it's own merits.

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

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:33AM (#46138233)
    According to the government's own environmental impact report [qld.gov.au] there isn't any anticipated impact. From the report:

    Impact of dredging at the new berth will be very limited as the volume to be dredged is very small, and the duration of work (two weeks) is minimal. Studies at the proposed offshore disposal site also reveal that past disposal has had no discernible long term effects. No significant level of contaminants has been found in the dredging areas, from coal or other material spillage, and dredge spoil is therefore considered suitable for unconfined ocean disposal. Coastal processes do not contribute to silting of the berths or the approach channel.

    It sounds like this isn't the first time they've dumped there and that those prior events have not had any noticeable negative effects and that they've tested what's going to be dumped there to ensure that there aren't any contaminants. It's starting to appear as though this is just a lot of environmentalists throwing a fit for no good reason.

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

    by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:43AM (#46138277)

    Why is this modded insightful?

    It is being sucked up out of the shipping channel and harbour (ie off the ocean floor) and then being transport basically no distance and put back down in the main area silt builds up. Also current flows are AWAY from the reef.

    This will have orders of magnitude less impact than the floods we have do.

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

    by weilawei ( 897823 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:41AM (#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:Sign the petition (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:43AM (#46138669) Journal
    In this specific case it's actually sand mixed with fine silt, it's clean but silt is a problem for coral, it needs clear water or it will die from insufficient sunlight. Having said that there is no coral at the dumping site, but there's plenty nearby and oceans have currents and storms that will move it around. It would have been much simpler to sail the barges a bit further out to open water off the continental shelf and dump it in the open ocean, but that would have cost a few more dollars so instead they lobby the feds to gain permission to vandalise the reef.

    This new government has a vindictive ideological grudge against environmental issues, they are also planning to open up 70-something thousand hectares of world heritage forest in Tasmania to logging. Despite the fact that after decades of wrangling, loggers and environment groups agreed on a peace deal last year that included a ban on logging in that forest. Forestry is a major part of Tasmania's economy, nobody on either side of that long and arduous fight wants to reignite the divisive issue except the new federal government.
  • Re:Sign the petition (Score:5, Informative)

    by weilawei ( 897823 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:48AM (#46138685) Homepage
    This is what I get for not running the numbers myself: It's actually 15.5ish miles, but my point stands the same, even more so, if anything.
  • Re:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @04:11AM (#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.
  • Storm in a teacup. (Score:4, Informative)

    by thatkid_2002 ( 1529917 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @04:53AM (#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.
  • Re:Sign the petition (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Monday February 03, 2014 @05:09AM (#46138933) Homepage

    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.

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

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @05:47AM (#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.

  • Clive Palmer (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:26AM (#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:By reef... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:36AM (#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.

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

    by Pav ( 4298 ) on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:42AM (#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 @07:02AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:52AM (#46140289)

    There is no coral where they are dumping it, it's going 20km from the reef but still in the marine park area. the area where it is going does not even have any seagrass and is basically the same sand as what will be dumped on it.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.