Departments reject criticism of harbour testing methods
AN AQUATIC veterinarian critical of the dredging project in Gladstone Harbour has attacked testing and reporting methods used by authorities.
Dr Matt Landos has written a long list of criticisms of testing by Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP).
Those departments yesterday went on the front foot, delivering lengthy answers, and rejections, of Dr Landos's criticisms.
A recurring point made by Dr Landos was that GPC had "refused to release" various test results.
GPC and EHP rejected the accusation and said all their test results were published on their websites.
One of Dr Landos's most explosive claims was that GPC had refused to release toxicology results from tests on turtles showing "high arsenic levels in their blood" in August 2012.
GPC also slammed that claim, saying it had funded the report by EnTox, but it had been up to EHP's discretion to publish it.
Queensland's most respected scientist on turtles, Dr Col Limpus, EHP chief scientist aquatic threatened species, yesterday rejected Dr Landos's suggestion arsenic had contributed to the deaths of turtles in Gladstone.
"No major pollution issue has been identified from this study for turtles," Dr Limpus said.
"There is a clear case that the most significant issue regarding these (turtle deaths) was malnutrition."
Click here to read Dr Landos's report.
Click here for more reports on Gladstone Harbour.
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Dr Landos listed what he said were flaws in the testing and reporting of fish health in Gladstone Harbour.
He cited a report by Professor Barry Hart last year, in which Prof Hart said testing and reporting by GPC and the Department for Environment and Heritage Protection lacked credibility.
"Who should the public believe?" Dr Landos said. "A professor in water quality, or the CEO of GPC (Leo Zussino)?"
Dr Landos was reacting to comments from Mr Zussino questioning the science in his report.
"Does Mr Zussino think that Prof Barry Hart assessment of Gladstone is not 'credible'?"
"Or Prof Jon Brodie who featured on Four Corners heavily criticising the monitoring program?"
"Is (Mr Zussio) suggesting he is not 'credible'? He is one of the foremost Australian scientists working on water quality, (the) Head of the Catchment to Reef Program at James Cook University."
The Observer asked GPC for comment on Dr Landos' reference to Prof Hart's report last year.
GPC said that was a matter for EHP to comment on, since Prof Hart's report had been critical of EHP.
So it is clear, dredging for the project works started well before the aquatic animal sickness
Dr Landos also criticised GPC's insistence that the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project began in May 2011, given some dredging for LNG projects started earlier.
"Who is Leo kidding that dredging started in May?" Dr Landos asked.
Dr Landos cited information that from October 2010 to January 2011, a cutter suction dredge called Wombat removed 343,426 cubic metres of material from the Queensland Curtis Liquefied Natural Gas construction dock adjacent to Curtis Island, as well as 30,000 cubic metres of material removed from the RG Tanna coal terminal aggregate dock in December 2011.
"So it is clear, dredging for the project works started well before the aquatic animal sickness," Dr Landos said.
"The bund wall was also in construction on top of acid sulphate sediments, well before the fish health issues started.
"It generated increased turbidity from the outset shown in image in my report to UNESCO on Gladstone Fishing Research fund website.
"Is (Mr Zussino) going to claim that the bund wall was not part of the GPC project?"
Dr Landos said the starting date of dredging showed fish illness had not begun before the dredging project, as claimed by GPC.
Mr Landos made numerous other criticisms, including that GPC "refuses to release the oyster studies undertaken by Rio Tinto and other oyster bioassay studies and metal bioaccumulation studies undertaken by Vision Environment."
Dr Landos did not explain why GPC would release testing by Rio Tinto.
Is (Mr Zussino) going to claim that the bund wall was not part of the GPC project?
He also accused GPC of refusing to release the results of toxicology testing by EnTox of turtles "which found high arsenic levels in their blood."
Dr Landos accused GPC of refusing to release a variety of test results.
He also criticised testing done by Department of Environment Resource Management (now called EHP).
He listed a series of flaws in EHP's testing over the past two years.
He also accused GPC, EHP and Fisheries Queensland of not releasing data on metal testing from the mud crabs "which had metal-induced shell lesions."
Other criticisms of GPC, EHP and Fisheries Queensland Dr Landos listed included"
- Fisheries Queensland refused the offer to allow him to jointly undertake surveying of mud crabs with Fisheries Queensland staff "to ensure detection of shell lesions was accurately reported by all parties."
- Water quality monitoring had not used the "standard technique" of hanging live oysters in the water to test water toxicity and metal accumulation?
- Not always allowing peer review and not always naming authors in reports.
Dr Landos said testing and reporting by government departments contrasted his own reporting, "which is all published free online for further peer review, the methods are detailed, the conclusions backed with scientific literature references, and has already been peer reviewed by two scientific journal editors, with more welcome".
"It stands alone in its independence from any motivations for profit and its independence from all the companies in Gladstone," Dr Landos said.
"Mr Zussino would be better served to take the data in my report, and act on it promptly, before more major harm is done to the World Heritage Area."