Ports corporation hits back at claims of wrongdoing

GLADSTONE Ports Corporation has hit back at claims it withheld studies and information from government departments by releasing a fact sheet on its website.

Titled 'No creative writing - just the facts', the information deals with each recent allegation separately.

GPC said it collated the fact sheet to give the Gladstone community the "actual facts' on these topics.

The claims and GPC's reponses are:

Claim: GPC has withheld information from Government departments.

GPC response: GPC is a government owned corporation. All available reports, information and data collected by Gladstone Ports Corporation with regards to the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project have been made available to all government departments and relevant authorities as per the conditions of the project.

Claim: GPC has withheld a CQUniversity study from the state and Federal Governments and relevant authorities.

GPC response: The study commissioned by CQUniversity was co-funded by GPC. The researcher had applied for funding under a Contestable Funding Application, and had received support from the Institute for Sustainable Regional Development.

A condition of this grant was to secure industry support. GPC provided funding and technical support due to the locality and nature of the study.

Whilst GPC funded this study, like many other research projects in our region, the release of this study to the public or government departments is the responsibility of the commissioning body, which in this case was CQUniversity.

Claim: GPC may have breached federal law by omitting the findings of the study from its EIS.

GPC response: The above study commissioned by CQUniversity researched Imposex, the imposition of male sex characteristics in females, a common phenomenon in gastropod molluscs in harbours around the world.

The causes of Imposex have been linked to Tributyltin (TBT). TBT is an anti-fouling agent that was used on the hulls of vessels up until it was banned in 2008.

The findings of this study found that Imposex was present in gastropod molluscs at a number of sites tested in the harbour. 

Most molluscs studied had low levels of Imposex and were considered reproductively healthy and unlikely to be causing effects to other marine animals.

TBT is a known contaminant of concern in harbours, ports and marinas both in Australia and around the world.

GPC did not include the CQUniversity study in its EIS for the WBDDP as it undertook its own monitoring and testing on TBT in over 1000 borehole samples that were taken from sites with in the Western Basin footprint and outside.

Whilst TBT was evident in these samples, the data collected showed generally low concentrations of TBT, with no values exceeding the high Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines.

This information was included on pages 11-24 of the EIS which can be viewed on the Western Basin port development website.

Claim: A leak in the bund wall in October 2011 has contributed to algal blooming and consequently affected fish health.

GPC response: In October 2011 a small leak was identified in the Fisherman's Landing reclamation area bund wall.

An additional water quality monitoring report was commissioned by GPC after high turbidity readings were recorded during the period due to a combination of the porosity of the bund wall, extreme tidal movements and high wind conditions.

GPC worked with its contractors to effectively seal the bund with sand material to resolve the seepage of fine material through the bund wall liner.

The key findings of the water quality monitoring report (as indicated in the Vision Environment WBDDP Water Quality September and October 2011 report) states that the research indicates that an algal bloom was present in
August 2011 prior to the commencement of dredging with the cutter suction dredge Al Mahaar.

Several potential harmful algal species were identified, which had been previously associated with fish kills.

The algal species identified were not uncommon for the Port Curtis area for that time of year.

Reports and data associated with the Western Basin Port Development Project are available under the 'reports' tab at www.westernbasinportdevelopment.com.au.