WWF-Australia today expressed concern that lumps of coal and coal dust are washing up on beaches in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
A concerned citizen has provided WWF with photographs including a turtle hatchling emerging beside a lump of coal at East Point Beach, Mackay, which is near Hay Point – the largest coal port alongside the Great Barrier Reef.
“It is simply not good enough for coal to be washing up on beaches in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck said.
“Beginning your first moments as a hatchling beside a lump of coal is not the best start to life.
“Coal is a potentially toxic material for marine life and must be managed in a way that stops it ending up in Reef waters,” he continued.
“There has long been concern about coal and dust spills at Hay Point. WWF is calling for the government investigation to move quickly and for an urgent upgrade of infrastructure to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
At a Senate inquiry into the Great Barrier Reef in 2014, James Cook University’s Professor Terry Hughes tabled a scientific paper.
Professor Hughes told the inquiry:
“It is about a class of chemicals called PAHs, which are polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. These are toxic chemicals that are found in coal dust… The conclusion of this paper is: The data shown here demonstrate that the coastal sediments offshore of the Hay Point coal port are already contaminated with coal residues which exceed the Australian and New Zealand toxicity guidelines.
This to me is a very damning conclusion based on samples that were collected across the entire breadth of the Great Barrier Reef. It shows that coal dust has already spread hundreds of kilometres from coal ports and that it has now accumulated everywhere on the Great Barrier Reef and not just the dredging sites or near the ports themselves. It is exceeding toxic levels in nearshore locations.”
The ABC is reporting today that a Queensland Government investigation has found a coal spillage from a ship loader at Hay Point but it is not yet known if this is the source of the coal that has washed up in Mackay.