New report reveals St Kilda poisoning ‘ticking time bomb’

The St Kilda Mangroves Alliance is a powerful coalition of local, national and international organisations and individuals representing environment, industry, science and community formed to ensure a best practice remediation plan is urgently put in place for the recovery and long-term health of this globally significant area. 


MEDIA RELEASE
12 April 2021

New report reveals St Kilda poisoning ‘ticking time bomb’

The St Kilda Mangroves Alliance has released a new report that reveals:

  • Control of salinity levels in the Dry Creek saltfields appears to have been completely lost two years ago, and
  • There is no way the current ‘Holding Pattern’ management of the saltfields will be viable in the future

And, as a result:

  • The company operating the saltfields may have breached the Commonwealth EPBC Act;
  • There is a ‘ticking time bomb’ emerging in the northern end of the system, with potentially 19,000 tonnes of new salt coming into the salt ponds every week with no effective way to get rid of it; and,
  • Increasingly risky choices by the company (Buckland Dry Creek) to try and manage the out of control salinity levels may have directly led to the saltmarsh and mangrove poisoning at St Kilda.

“Nine months after reports emerged of mangrove deaths at St Kilda, the hypersaline brine that caused the damage still has not been completely removed, and damage is still occurring,” said St Kilda Mangroves Alliance spokesperson, and Conservation SA CE Craig Wilkins.

“But while the authorities are still scrambling to fix up the mess and stop the poisoning, a major new risk is emerging.

“Compliance reporting shows that the Dry Creek Saltfields have not been safely managed for at least the last two years with salinity gradients clearly out of control. 

“This lack of control is likely to have directly led to the mangrove deaths, with Buckland Dry Creek making increasingly risky choices to try to maintain the status quo ‘holding pattern’ status in the saltfields.

“Even more alarming is the finding that this ‘ticking time bomb’ is only getting worse, he said. 

The report was prepared by saltfield and salt lake ecologist Peri Coleman from Delta Environmental Consulting and models a range of scenarios for dilution flow rates and salinity forecasts in the Dry Creek Saltfields system.

“Potentially 19,000 tonnes of new salt may be entering the Dry Creek Saltfields every week with no effective strategy for managing its impact,” said Ms Coleman.

“Already the system is not coping, with alarming ‘yo-yo’ swings in salinity levels that may have killed populations of invertebrates such as snails, small crustaceans, marine worms, brine fly larvae and brine shrimp which are vital food sources for the shorebirds, which travel to this region every year from Siberia and the Arctic.

“Yet, under Commonwealth law, the company is legally obliged to manage the saltfields in a way that preserves habitat for migratory shorebirds. 

“Our analysis shows the company has failed to do that, and therefore may have breached the Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act,” she said.

The St Kilda Mangroves Alliance is a powerful coalition of local, national and international organisations and individuals representing environment, industry, science and community formed to ensure a best practice remediation plan is urgently put in place for the recovery and long-term health of this globally significant area. 

The Alliance is calling for:

  • The immediate removal of the damaging hyper-saline brine in the ponds to the South of St Kilda Road 
  • Much greater transparency and genuine two-way exchange of information between Buckland Dry Creek Ltd, the Department for Energy & Mining and the public.
  • Development of a closure and rehabilitation plan, in partnership with the public, for the damaged southern ponds and a restoration plan for the surrounding tidal wetlands
  • A permanent solution to the unstable ‘holding pattern’ operating in the northern ponds, preferably the transition of those ponds to self-sustaining natural habitats that do not pose ongoing risks to the surrounding tidal wetlands.

Alliance Organisations include:

Conservation Council of South Australia, RecFish SA, St Kilda & Surrounds Progress & Tourism Association, Port Adelaide Residents Environment Protection Group, Landcare SA, Trees for Life SA, Nature Conservation Society South Australia, Eco Pro Tem, Friends of Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, Birdlife Australia, Friends of Parks, Estuary Care Foundation, Friends of St Vincent Gulf, Birds SA, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Butterfly Conservation SA.

A copy of the report can be found here.

RELEASE ENDS

Media contact: Craig Wilkins, Chief Executive, Conservation SA – 0417 879 439

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Contact Conservation SA on (08) 8223 5155, [email protected], or at our offices at the Joinery at 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide.

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