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Australia Plans to Dump More Than 1 Million Tons of Sludge in Great Barrier Reef Waters
That is because the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has approved plans to dump one million tonnes (approximately 1.1 million U.S. tons) of sludge into the World Heritage Site. The decision comes in the same month that runoff from flooding in Queensland, Australia threatened to smother part of the reef and two years after the unique ecosystem was weakened by back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by climate change.
"If they are dumping it over the coral reef itself, it will have quite a devastating effect. The sludge is basically blanketing over the coral," Boxall explained.
GBRMPA issued a permit on Jan. 29 for North Queensland Bulk Ports to dump maintenance dredge sludge within the park's boundaries, The Guardian reported. In doing so, it exploited a loophole in a 2015 law meant to protect the reef. The law banned capital dredging, but said nothing about port maintenance, the process of removing sediment that builds up in shipping lanes. The permit would allow maintenance dredging and dumping over 10 years at Mackay's Hay Point port, which BBC News said was one of the world's largest coal export sites.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters argued the permit should be overturned.
"The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently," Waters told The Guardian. "One million tonnes of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip."
North Queensland Bulk Ports defended the decision in a statement reported by The Guardian:
"Just like roads, shipping channels require maintenance to keep ports operating effectively," the ports authority said. "Maintenance dredging involves relocating sediment which travels along the coast and accumulates over the years where our shipping operation occurs.
"Importantly, our assessment reports have found the risks to protected areas including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and sensitive habitats are predominantly low with some temporary, short-term impacts to (bottom-dwelling) habitat possible.
"The permits allow for the long-term, sustainable management of maintenance dredging at the Port and will safeguard the efficient operations of one of Australia's most critical trading ports."
But Waters said the initial ban showed that the government understood the risk posed to the reef, especially since 50 percent of its corals have died due to bleaching.
"Government policy needs to change to ban all offshore dumping, so GBRMPA is not allowed to permit the reef's waters to be used as a cheaper alternative to treating the sludge and disposing of it safely onshore," Waters told The Guardian.
Dr. Boxall told BBC News that the port could lessen the damage by dumping the sludge as far offshore as possible, but that it would still contaminate the water with dangerous materials like trace metals.
"If it's put into shallow water it will smother sea life," he said. "It's important they get it right. It'll cost more money but that's not the environment's problem—that's the port authorities' problem."
The "maintenance dredging" is set to begin in late March, according to The Guardian.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.