Guilty until proven innocent
Pollution claims against Adani unfounded with fines expected to be reversed.
Wednesday 27 September 2017
The Department of Environment and Heritage (EHP) has not been able to find any evidence to support claims that Adani polluted the Caley Valley wetlands during heavy rain in April.
It was widely reported in the media that Adani had breached its licence conditions at the Abbot Point Coal Terminal by allowing stormwater mixed with coal sediment into the wetlands during heavy rain in April.
However this week, EHP released a report into the event clearing the miner of any wrongdoing.
“Abbot Point Bulk Coal Pty Ltd was granted a temporary emissions licence (TEL) during Tropical Cyclone Debbie that permitted an elevated suspended solid limit (100 milligrams per litre) on stormwater releases from the terminal during the high rainfall associated with the event,” EHP said.
“The recorded concentration of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) at the release point into the wetland did not exceed the limit of 100 milligrams per litre during the period of the TEL.
“However following the release of satellite imagery that appeared to show contamination of the wetlands, EHP commissioned this report.
“The report by the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation found no evidence of widespread contamination of the wetland.”
The EHP report found serious flaws in using satellite imagery as a basis for assessing the scale and intensity of the discharge.
“The appearance of water bodies in remotely sensed imagery can be affected by several factors, including the depth and clarity of the water, the angle of the sun and the sensor when the image is captured,” they said.
“The report found a coal concentration of 10% in sediment sampled at the immediate discharge point, reducing quickly to minor concentrations of around 2% further away from the discharge point and falling to trace levels below 1% throughout the broader wetland area.
“There was very little visual evidence of fine coal particles across the wetland as a whole, and it appears that where fine coal particles have been observed, there have been no widespread impacts on the wetland.”
Despite the findings, the EHP has not yet agreed to reverse the $12,000 fine that Adani received after the discharge.
Instead, they are asking Abbot Point Bulk Coal Pty Ltd to undertake another assessment of any adverse impacts on the Caley Valley Wetland from activities conducted at the terminal.
“Following the submission and review of the required report, EHP will consider whether further action is required in line with the department’s Enforcement Guidelines,” they said.