Red mud choking up waterways



WHEN Rob Pike used to commercially fish the South Trees Inlet he was able to drop a net and lift a catch of barramundi.

But that was then.

Now there are no barramundi there.

Where fish once swam is a thick layer of red-brown sediment that breaks the surface during low tide.

"I used to drop a net that had a 20ft drop in there once but you can't do that now," he said.

Mr Pike said since Queensland Alumina Ltd (QAL) established the red mud dam and the settling ponds nearby, the inlet has been slowly silting up.

To prove a point he took The Observer to the place where he once caught fish and floated above the mud just a few inches under the surface.

All around was white foam that spilled from the settling ponds.

Mr Pike said the ponds were supposed to collect the mud particles but apparently they were not doing what they were supposed to.

He said that in the past he had spoken to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the problem, but nothing was ever done.

A spokesperson for QAL said there were a number of contributing factors to the silting of waterways.

These included tidal influences, sediment-laden stormwater runoff and structures/bends influencing precipitation of sediments and that QAL routinely monitored water quality at its licensed discharge points and within the surrounding waterways.

The EPA said it periodically received reports of changes to the depth and location of the bed in the waterways surrounding Gladstone Harbour.

A spokesperson for the EPA said the harbour and its inlets "are part of a dynamic coastal system and the movement of sediment occurs naturally in these waterways".

"The EPA would be keen to talk to the fisherman about his observations so that his concerns can be properly investigated by the EPA," the spokesperson said.