A Federal Government review of Woodside’s planned dredging program at James Price Point has revealed serious concerns about the potential impact on the marine environment from toxins, including arsenic and zinc.
The Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities review was obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Wilderness Society.
The 2011 Federal review considered the Department of State Development’s revised coastal modelling work done after it delivered the Browse strategic assessment report, in December 2010.
The 2011 review found several deficiencies in the earlier assessment.
Reviewers were concerned that the assessment had failed to address the potential for dredging to release arsenic, nickel and zinc into the water.
While all occur naturally in the environment, at high concentrations they can be toxic to marine invertebrates and phytoplankton – a major concern for aquaculture and fishing industries in the region.
The review found that while modelling was conducted over a wide area, data had only been calibrated at one point in 18m of water, which was relatively deep.
Most of the dredging will occur in shallower waters.
The basic modelling had not been tested widely.
The missing information made it difficult for the Federal reviewers to have confidence in the modelling results, particularly about the cumulative effects of the dredging plume over time.
The Federal review said the assessment was based on dredging taking 12 months but it was likely to take longer, with a potentially different impact on the environment.
Other details that would normally be addressed in a dredging assessment had either not been included or not discussed in sufficient detail, the review said.
Reviewers said additional assessments must be carried out to quantify risks before any approvals were granted.
They found “sparse information” on modelling, with insufficient data and some “counter-intuitive results” from testing.
Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Authority announced it had delayed its decision on the proposed gas project from this month until late May to allow time for Woodside to deliver additional dredging data.
A Woodside spokesman said the company was providing additional information to the EPA based on revised modelling.
“This modelling has been informed by more detailed engineering design and environmental studies completed since the SAR was released in December 2010,” he said.
Wilderness Society spokesman Peter Robertson called on the Federal Government to conduct a fully independent scientific peer review of all modelling submitted by the proponents.He said the public could have no confidence in their findings.
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