The safety of fishing in the Collie River has been called into question after Griffin Coal detected elevated heavy metals levels in waterways near the mining town.
The coal miner released a report this week which found elevated aluminium, iron and mercury levels at sites on Boronia Gully and the Collie River.
The Department of Environment and Conservation has said the heavy metal levels are triggers for further investigation, but are well below relevant human health guidelines for contact with the water or sediment.
Griffin Coal has stressed the report ruled out its Ewington coal mine as a source of the mercury.
But the findings have concerned locals who want an immediate investigation into what is causing the elevated mercury levels.
Collie-Preston MP Mick Murray has called for further investigations by the environmental protection authority.
“We’re a bit perplexed by the whole thing, we have air monitors around Collie and no-one has ever broached that with me about mercury levels within the air being high, so whether it’s naturally occurring or it comes from industry, no-one’s quite sure,” he said.
Mr Murray said the fallout from the Esperance lead scandal in 2007 highlighted the need for early action over environmental issues.
The Health Department has said the occasional consumption of marron and fish from around Boronia Gully and Collie River should not pose anyhealth risk to the public.
But Doctors for the Environment WA chairman George Crisp said the results warranted immediate investigation – particularly given the potential health risks of mercury to pregnant women.
“We really need more information, if there is mercury occurring in the sediment of the river, then what this is saying is clearly that mercury is entering the local environment through some mechanism,” he said.
Mercury was a potential neuro-toxin and could cause brain damage.
Dr Crisp said the reason mercury also concentrated up the food chain, which should prompt investigation into mercury levels in marron and fish.
A Griffin Coal spokesman said researchers found the source of the mercury was not Griffin’s Ewington mine because it was also detected upstream of the mine. DEC said the levels of aluminium, iron and mercury shown in the report were triggers for further investigation, but did not necessarily indicate a risk of harm to the environment.DEC is seeking advice from the Department of Fisheries on the possible effects on aquatic organisms.
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