Eco expert says GPC may have breached federal law

THE university behind a study of a toxic chemical in Gladstone Harbour has debunked Gladstone Ports Corporation's claim that it was not allowed to give results to regulators.

And an expert has claimed omitting the study from the environmental impact statement for the Western Basin Dredging project may have breached federal law.

APN revealed last week the port did not tell state or federal environmental authorities about the 2009 study, even after a fish disease outbreak in 2011.

The study found the impact of tributyltin (TBT) - a toxic chemical once used in anti-fouling paints - was worsening for molluscs in some areas of the dredging footprint.

But a port spokeswoman said last week sediment testing found "no or very little contamination issues" from TBT.

Environmental law expert Dr Chris McGrath said the failure to include the report in the EIS may have breached the port's duty to provide information under the Commonwealth approval process.

The University of Queensland lecturer and barrister admitted EIS statements are often "sales brochures that are clearly not a hard look at the project".

He said any proponent that did not provide important information in the EIS could be open to prosecution "for providing false and misleading information to the Commonwealth to gain an approval".

"(Even if) you say something that's literally true, (it) could be misleading when you leave out key bits of information," he said.

His comments follow recent revelations that the Federal Environment Department for two years did not act on warnings from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority over concerns about the dredging project.

The port last week denied it withheld the information from authorities, saying it was not authorised to release the study's findings, and it was not considered "primary research".

But Central Queensland University has confirmed there were no conditions placed on GPC's use of the study or its findings.

"As a partner, they were free to use the information provided to them," a CQU spokesman said.

The GPC declined to respond to questions for this report.



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