8th July 2016 – by Rupert Milne Home
On 28th June a meeting hosted by Office of Environment & Heritage, was held to inform and address contamination in the Macleay River. It was attended by some 20 State and Local Government, University, Health, Oyster farmer and community representatives. Longer presentations were from Derelict Mines, Macleay Eco-health and University of New England (UNE) with shorter ones from Kempsey Shire Council, NSW Food, Southern Cross University (SCU) and an emailed summary from Hillgrove Mines was read out.
Presentations and discussion focused on antimony (Sb) and arsenic (As) contamination sources and levels in the upper, mid and estuary parts of the catchment and specific sub-catchments. GHD consultants, engaged by Derelict mines, presented their desk-top assessment of the impacts of historic mining and which sub-catchments pose what level of risk. The findings of this report will help guide where investment should be directed to reduce the impact of historic workings.UNE updated the group with their research into the uptake and transfer of As & Sb into plants and animals and, perhaps in association with SCU, had developed a research-funding proposal to further their research into the levels and risk factors which influence the contamination levels and associated potential toxicity/danger levels.
Group discussion ranged from naturally occurring levels, historic and uncontrollable point sources, how the ‘total’ and ‘available’ levels of As & Sb varied, as well as education on the use and management of contaminated waters by Councils, farmers and rural land-holders.
The main point of the meeting was:- Who could and would fund the research and what information did the potential funding bodies need to know so that the impacts could be effectively mitigated, controlled or managed. – Naturally, potential funding sources want useful information!
Out of all the representatives there, only Kempsey Shire Council advised they would contribute. A few others advised they would ask their department heads, as they could not ‘unilaterally’ make that commitment. Derelict Mines declined to commit funding until further discussion and review of the research proposal against its funding guidelines and priorities of limited funding.
It was further resolved that: Letters asking for direct support be sent to various departments who were unable to attend the meeting and/or had a potential interest in the results. SOMR, being the only independent ‘community’ based organisation there agreed to carry out some lobbying for support and posting information in our media outlets.
The meeting was important in forming a more comprehensive understanding of the contaminants in the catchment, gathering concerns of various bodies and working toward a more integrated approach to managing the issues.