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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.
- Half of the Great Barrier Reef Is Dead ›
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- Great Barrier Reef to Become Sludge Repository | Science | AAAS ›
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.