News

Dredge dumping sewage in harbour one of many incidents

RAW DEAL: Aerial view of the Al Mahaar dredging in the Gladstone harbour.
RAW DEAL: Aerial view of the Al Mahaar dredging in the Gladstone harbour. Brenda Strong GLAPLAN

A SHOCKING 1500 litres of raw sewage was dumped into Gladstone harbour in one of a series of environmental incidents on the Western Basin dredging project.

An APN investigation has also confirmed details of 35 oil spills and the "unplanned dumping" of more than 4200 cubic metres of dredge spoil in the harbour during the Australia's biggest-ever dredging project.

The Observer can reveal a total of 48 environmental incidents, between July 2011 and October last year.

Most of the incidents have remained hidden from public scrutiny - some for more than two years - as neither the Gladstone Ports Corporation nor the Federal Environment Department is required to report details publicly.

And another nine incidents have occurred on the project since then, but the department refused to release the details.

The sewage release occurred from the cutter suction dredge Al Mahaar in October last year, after a blockage in the sewage treatment system.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws revealed "untreated sewage mixed with grey water" was released to prevent "a likely emergency situation" on board.

Subsequent investigations confirmed the Al Mahaar did not have a back-up system, despite being certified as having one under international standards.

"The availability of such a facility would have allowed the transfer of waste water into alternative storage facility," the incident report reads.

Documents seen by The Observer confirmed the lack of "an optional discharge line and connectors", showing the Al Mahaar did not meet the certification standards at the time of the incident.

A Gladstone Ports Corporation spokesman said the GPC had ordered an independent inspection by a "third party independent surveyor" and port staff had also "verified all paperwork" for the vessel prior to deployment.

But while the spokesman said the vessel was "found to be fully compliant" with the International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate, none of these checks identified the missing discharge line before the Al Mahaar began work.

Contractors have since installed a holding tank on the Al Mahaar, with all sewage to be treated on land.

The new storage tanks on board mean the Al Mahaar does now meet the standards, with the dredger still operating on the project 10 months after the incident.

Documents show the incident was rated as a rare temporary nuisance with "no permanent damage" to the environment.

A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth Environment department said the port corporation had "adequately reported on the actions it has taken to remediate incidents".

Western Basin facts

  • Contractor: Van Oord - Dredging International Joint Venture
  • Proponent: Gladstone Ports Corporation (responsible for environmental management)
  • Began: May 20, 2011
  • Dredges: Nine dredges have worked on the project, with two currently operating - Al Mahaar and Athena
  • So far: 18.9 million cubic metres of sediment has been dredged
  • Total: Up to 46 million cubic metres of sediment approved to be dredged
  • Project cost: $1.3 billion

Total 35 oil spills in 14 months hit harbour in dredging operation

DETAILS of more than 30 oil spills in water and on land during the huge dredging operation underway in Gladstone harbour have come to light for the first time.

While confidential incident reports on the 35 spills have highlighted the risks of the project, the documents have also shown a speedy response to help prevent any lasting damage.

The oil spills largely involved failures of hydraulic equipment on dredgers operating on the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project.

Dating from July 2011 to September 2012, the oil spills totalled more than 900 litres of hydraulic oil, diesel and other fuels spilt into Gladstone Harbour, the Western Basin Reclamation Area and surrounding land.

Most spills involved a small amount of hydraulic oil, ranging from less than a litre of oil spilt to up to 20 litre of oil spilt into the harbour waters.

But one incident on the vessel BHD Big Boss in November 2011 showed 575 litres of hydraulic oil was spilt on the deck with about 275 litres spilling into harbour waters before being cleaned up.

Despite the high number of minor spills on the project, the reports claim every incident was met with swift response, including using absorbent pads and booms during clean-up operations.

A Gladstone Ports Corporation spokesman confirmed all equipment was checked internally by a third party, and where the port had any concerns, instructions were given to replace all hoses on the equipment.

The spokesman said while any spill was highly regrettable, the port and contractor had "worked to ensure all spills are reported and improvement plans put in place to limit future incidents".

A spokeswoman for the Federal Environment Department said the department did not identify any breaches of approval conditions during investigations earlier this year.

Nine dredging incidents

A SERIES of machinery malfunctions and human errors caused more than 4200 cubic metres of sediment to be discarded in "unplanned dumping" incidents in Gladstone Harbour during the dredging project since November 2011.

But only one of the dumping incidents resulted in a fine from Commonwealth regulators, as the other incidents were not a breach of approval conditions.

The only "unplanned dumping" incident found to breach conditions was self-reported by Gladstone Ports Corporation

Federal Environment Department documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws reveal the nine incidents between October 2011 and June last year resulted in 4232 cubic metres of sediment being dumped outside the approved East Banks Disposal Site.

The incidents were primarily caused by machinery malfunctions, where dredge hopper doors were not completely closed, or by human errors at the control panel.

Eight of the incidents involved sediment being dredged, dumped back into the same area and dredged again. These were allowed under approval conditions.

A department spokeswoman confirmed the incidents were not a breach of the approval conditions.

The only "unplanned dumping" incident found to breach conditions was self-reported by Gladstone Ports Corporation, resulting in a $6600 fine for an emergency dump in January last year.

A port spokesman said the incidents did not impact areas outside of the dredging footprint.

In June this year, GPC carried out its own investigation into a dirty water leak from a Western Basin dredge bund and into the harbour.

MORE ON GLADSTONE HARBOUR HERE

Topics:  dredging environment gladstone harbour gladstone ports corporation raw sewage western basin



Foodies' scavenger hunt: are you up for it?

IF YOU want to give your tastebuds the flavour sensations of a lifetime, here is the ultimate foodie’s scavenger hunt through Brisbane.

5 minutes with Israel Folau on footy, life and love

Israel Folau and Silver Fern netballer Maria Tutaia announced their engagement last last year.

WE CAUGHT up with football star and Brisbane ex-pat Israel Folau.

10 reasons to head to South Bank this summer

Head to the only inner-city beach in Australia!

South Bank has a ridiculous amount of fun things to do.

Five mammoth events you need in your life

No Caption

BRISBANE isn’t known for doing things by halves…

How to make your child's every dream come true...

Take a dip at South Bank in the inner-city beach.

‘I DON’T want to do fun things, Mum and Dad’… said no child ever!

How to do Eat Street the right way

Know where to start and where to end to avoid a huge food coma before you get to experience all the goodies!

EVERY Friday and Saturday night, Hamilton comes alive.

You can do WHAT in Brisbane?!

Talk about arriving in style! Take your pub crawl to the next level with a helicopter!

BET you didn't know you could do these things in Brisbane...

Gas supply fears for Curtis Island LNG plants, new report finds

Santos' GLNG project at Curtis Island.

See what the outlook is for 2017 oil and gas in Australia.

CFMEU official under fire for corporate spending

CFMEU Mackay district president Stephen Smyth at a rally.

Claims local official "racked up thousands" on corporate credit card

Local Partners

Why council workers will be peeking in Gladstone region yards

From January 30, council officers will spend six months visiting houses throughout the region to ensure all dogs are registered, desexed and microchipped.


New Year New Yard

Win $1000 Bunnings Voucher
Learn More

Puppetry of the Penis secrets revealed ahead of show

The famed Puppetry of the Penis is coming to the Sunshine Coast for shows in Noosa and Caloundra.

WARNING: This interview contains adult themes and traces of nuts

Noll meltdown won't affect Gympie Oz Day concert

Shannon Noll

Photo Contributed

Shannon Noll is still expected to perform in Gympie next Thursday

11 huge events coming to Gladstone in the next 6 months

Events coming up in Gladstone in 2017.

Your guide to exciting events coming to the Gladstone region

Kristen Stewart to host SNL

Kristen Stewart will host a pre-Super Bowl episode of SNL next month

Louis Tomlinson celebrated his son's first birthday

Louis Tomlinson and Briana Jungwirth celebrate son's first birthday

Kylie Minogue will take husband's name

Kylie Minogue will take her fiancé Joshua Sasse's surname

Nicole reveals her biggest parenting challenges

Actress Nicole Kidman.

Nicole Kidman says her kids are ‘deeply attuned' to her moods.

Suicide Squad director reveals his regrets about the film

Margot Robbie in a scene from the movie Suicide Squad.

DIRECTOR of superhero flick on what he’d change about ‘flawed’ film.

Meet the new Marco on MasterChef Australia: Yotam Ottolenghi

Israeli-born, London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi will be a guest chef for a week on the 2017 season of MasterChef Australia.

AFTER Marco’s defection to Seven, MasterChef signs a true food hero.

Stockland's $150m pitch: Build it and they will come

Gladstone Marina. The Gladstone Regional Council offers a range of exciting job opportunities. Photo Contributed: Murray Ware.

Here's why we need to see Stockland upgrade start soon.

By the water's edge

Secure your seachange

Gladstone market's confidence coming back for 2017

Core Logic property statistics reveal the region's median house price dropped 16.7% to $275,000 in the September quarter.

Region's median house price drops 16.7% to $275,000

HOT PROPERTY: Money to spend on land, buildings

File picture.

Sale, leasing of industrial real estate picks up in Mackay

Collapsed Coast company could owe up to $5 million

Staff, ATO, landlords among those out of pocket.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!