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Water Quality - Monitoring

7 August 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT, PARKS and HERITAGE, Mr GUTWEIN

A recent water monitoring study conducted by prominent scientist, Christine Coughanowr, has detected disturbingly high levels of fish waste in the upper Derwent River catchment. Nutrient and bacteria levels at the outflow from two salmon hatcheries were up to 128 times higher than levels upstream.

In 2014, Hobart's drinking water was plagued by an unpleasant taste and odour. TasWater identified two organic compounds, methylisoborneol and geosmin as the likely source and were required to make costly upgrades to their New Norfolk treatment plan to process that tainted water.

Excessively high nutrients that cause algal blooms as well as methylisoborneol and geosmin have been linked to fish hatcheries elsewhere.

Why has our Environment Protection Authority failed to detect or take action on these concerningly high levels? With progressively hotter summers expected, what will you do to protect the quality and reliability of our drinking water supply? Will you commit to an investigation into the impact of these salmon hatcheries?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for that question and I am aware of the matter and it has certainly been raised. Environment Tasmania put out a media release on this particular issue not that long ago.

I can inform the House that the independent EPA director is the regulator for these inland fish farms in this catchment and it is the EPA's role to ensure they comply with environmental requirements. I understand that the two farms in question have been operating for decades so these are not new enterprises.

I am advised that the EPA director issued new environmental licences earlier this year following an assessment by the EPA board. The conditions of the licence were updated to contemporary standards through the board's assessment. The conditions now include detailed requirements for monitoring of water quality and biological impacts in the downstream environment and the environmental performance of drum screens in relation to water quality treatment.

I am advised further that the business, Saltas, submitted a draft ambient monitoring plan for each farm and these plans are currently being reviewed by the EPA. The discharge limits will be reviewed following receipt of the required ambient monitoring report and any non-compliances with the licence conditions will be investigated and enforcement action taken, where appropriate.

Dr Woodruff - Will you investigate this particular finding?

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Could you do that through the Chair please, Dr Woodruff?

Mr GUTWEIN - I make the point very clearly that this is a matter for the independent EPA. I also make the point that it took this Government to take those steps to ensure that it was fully independent and not as it operated under the previous government. This matter will go through its processes and will be concluded appropriately under the very strong stewardship of the EPA.