Awoonga Dam continued to spill over on Monday, January 28.
Awoonga Dam continued to spill over on Monday, January 28. David Sparkes

Gladstone Harbour may be headed for environmental turmoil

GLADSTONE Harbour could be heading for another environmental nightmare.

Two years after the 2010-11 floods sent plumes of sediment into the harbour, killing large areas of seagrass and starving marine animals in the process, the state's environment minister has warned of a repeat following the recent floods.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell came to Gladstone today and inspected sites at Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun alumina refinery and RG Tanna Coal Terminal.

Mr Powell said he was satisfied that both sites were handling the rains appropriately.

Mr Powell held far greater concern about huge plume of muddy water coming down the Boyne River and flowing into the Gladstone Harbour.

Mr Powell said it was likely the plume would deposit sediment on seagrass meadows, severely damaging them.

The experience from two years ago has shown what to expect if seagrass is damaged.

Animals, such as turtles and dugongs, are likely to be the victims, either becoming ill or dying of starvation.

Also worrying the minister was the presence of fresh water in the harbour.

Although most onlookers would expect the fresh water to quickly mix with sea water, Mr Powell said the experience of 2011 showed that the current influx of fresh water would remain in the harbour for six to nine months, which is virtually guaranteed to impact marine life.

The topic has all sorts of ramifications, particularly on the major dredging project and the debate over whether dredging caused fish illness in 2011.

Commercial fishermen rejected the theory that an influx of fresh water had been a major factor affecting the health of the harbour and fish stocks.

For more stories about Gladstone Harbour, click here.



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