The government’s ability to respond to a leaking wall which held dredged spoil at Gladstone Harbour was limited, an inquiry into a leak found.
An independent inquiry into a leaking wall designed to keep toxic material out of Gladstone Harbour has found the wall wasn’t consistent with industry best practice.
The federal government review’s job was to find out whether it was a failure of design or construction that saw the protective bund wall at the Queensland port leak in 2011 and 2012.
The wall was designed to hold 25 million tonnes of dredged soil, and environment groups claim the leak caused dangerous chemicals to leach into the harbour, affecting marine life in the area.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt released the findings on Friday, saying his department had begun addressing the report’s recommendations.
“I’m confident these findings will help improve environmental practices and regulation going forward,” he said in a statement.
However, Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart said the review didn’t go far enough to address other problems at Gladstone.
“Let us not forget that for two years, industry, the state-owned ports corporation and government have said nothing …”
The review found aspects of the wall were not consistent with industry best practice and the lining was inadequate.
Water monitoring sites were also set out in the wrong areas and couldn’t determine changes in turbidity that may cause the wall to leak.
The Department of Environment’s ability to respond to a leak was limited by the lack of specific conditions set out when the project was approved.
Mr Hunt said the number of staff monitoring dredging projects had since been boosted and risk models for future projects had been developed.
A review of compliance and enforcement standards will be released in June.
A report released last year on sick fish in Gladstone Harbour found that flooding, combined with large numbers of fish being washed over the Awoonga dam, stressed the Gladstone Harbour ecosystem and adjacent waterways.
The wall has since been fixed.