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Environment and Climate Change – Heavy Metal Contamination

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Tags: Environment, Environment Protection Authority, Mining

Dr WOODRUFF - I wanted to raise an issue that's been brought to me by two wildlife ecologists or health specialists and it's about the levels of heavy metal contamination as a result of mining in the west coast on wildlife and also on human health, but that's a separate issue for the Minister for Health. There has been a number of issues relating to seepage of contaminants, overflow of tailings dams, the structural failure of built containment and also through airborne transfer of mining-related dust that has led to the noted levels of contaminants in local wildlife.

There used to be more information available but there is now very little publicly available information on the environmental monitoring that the EPA conducts. We are required under the significant impact guidelines for matters of national environment significance under the EPBCA to do monitoring and the risk of heavy metal toxicosis is for species such as the masked owl, Tasmanian devil and spotted-tailed quoll.

We used to use humans as a bio-indicator species in the local population by doing regular testing, but their view is that the water sampling frequency for people living in the area has been reduced to now eight times a year after four years ago and there is no really publicly available information to show whether people are being affected by heavy metals in the area and how that's affecting wildlife. Could the director of the EPA - we do not have much time left - perhaps he could -

Mr JAENSCH - What is your question?

Dr WOODRUFF - The question is what monitoring is happening, because it doesn't seem from the evidence and the concern of these wildlife ecologists that the appropriate monitoring is being done to ascertain what the impact on endangered species are?

CHAIR - Briefly, because we are now over time.

Mr JAENSCH - It is largely a public health issue in terms of the water supply, but if the director wants to provide a partial answer I would welcome him to do so.

Mr FORD - From an environmental point of view on the conditions on MMG there is a range of monitoring undertaken in terms of water quality monitoring. I am not aware that MMG undertakes any animal monitoring in relation to levels in animals. The monitoring information is something that is currently subject to the legislation that the minister has released for public comment in relation to providing me or the EPA with the tools to be able to make that information publicly available.