19 May 2021
An expert report, ordered by the Queensland Coordinator General to investigate Adani’s flood mitigation and sediment control measures on its rail line has concluded that Adani is not following best practice erosion and sediment control guidelines.
- Adani failed to follow its own erosion and sediment control guidelines by conducting works in waterways during the wet season
- Adani failed to prepare sites for flooding leading to unnecessary sediment pollution
- Approval conditions for future projects of a similar nature be strengthened to “prohibit works in waterways during the wet season”
Lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia, acting for Mackay Conservation Group have written to the office of the Queensland Coordinator General calling on them to use existing powers to strengthen environmental conditions and monitoring at Adani’s coal mine and rail projects in light of the concerns the expert report has raised.
Sunny Hungerford, campaign manager at Mackay Conservation Group says:
“The Water and Technology report shows that Adani breached their own guidelines by conducting works in waterways during the wet season and failed to properly prepare sites for flooding which led to sediment pollution. It’s critically important that the Coordinator General's office strengthen the project conditions to specifically prohibit any construction works in waterways during the wet season.”
“The fact that Adani can get away with this shows just how weak and ineffective the environmental conditions the Queensland government has imposed on Adani are. In this case Adani was allowed to get away with failing to prepare for flood events and causing pollution of waterways.
“Adani appears to have a full deck of get out of jail free cards, but Queenslanders expect better management of our precious water and natural assets. This is our backyard that Adani is polluting. Farmers and towns are working hard to protect our waterways from pollution, and companies like Adani should have to do the right thing as well.”
“The Water Technology report makes numerous recommendations for the improvement of erosion and sediment control measures along the rail line project, but it is unclear how Adani’s compliance with implementing the recommendations may be enforced without strengthening the project’s approval conditions and setting out clearly what the consequences are if Adani do not follow them.’
“The Queensland and Federal Governments have repeatedly assured the public that Adani’s coal project has the strictest environmental conditions, but these conditions mean absolutely nothing if they fail to prevent serious environmental damage”
The investigation was triggered by a complaint Mackay Conservation Group lodged with the regulator in February.Mackay Conservation Group’s (MCG) complaint provided evidence of sediment pollution and flood mitigation failures at three locations on Adani’s rail line which resulted in serious environmental damage.
Lawyers with Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) acting for MCG, wrote a letter to Meaghan Scanlon, Queensland's Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, urging an immediate investigation. MCG also requested an inspection of all construction sites along the North Galilee Rail Project.
Photos of the alleged breaches provided in the EPI report were taken approximately two weeks after intense rainfall in late December, which left large sections of Adani’s rail corridor submerged beneath flood waters.
Key findings from the Water Technology report:
The independent report by Water Technology acknowledges that
- ‘construction activities within waterways should not be undertaken during the wet season, which is reflected in the ESCPs prepared for the project. We also note however that the SDA approval conditions do not explicitly prohibit works in waterways from occurring during the wet season.’ (Page 5)
- “‘An analysis of water sample records collected by Bravus indicate frequent increases in turbidity from upstream to downstream of works sites. This is a concern…’ (Page 5)
- Adani’s failure to ‘make additional preparations made where works were occurring in watercourses’] has led to the unnecessary delivery of excess sediment directly to the watercourse. Given that the works are being conducted in the wet-season and sub-tropics, it is the opinion of the reviewers that serious weather events should have been anticipated and that these additional preparations should have been undertaken.’ (Page 6)
- ‘We acknowledge that construction activities within waterways should not be undertaken during the wet season where possible, which is reflected in the ESCPs prepared for the project. We also note however that the SDA approval conditions do not prohibit works in waterways from occurring during the wet season. The rail network is located within the sub-tropics where flooding is commonly expected every year. The potential for flooding of the construction site due to significant rainfall events was a well understood risk to the construction project. This is reflected in the ESCPs reviewed, which clearly indicate that works should be avoided within watercourses during the wet season.’ (Page 6)
- It is the opinion of the reviewers that ‘all reasonable and practical measures to minimise the extent of soil disturbance within the waterway prior to forecast rainfall and/or elevated stream flows’ had not been undertaken. It is highly likely that, in some instances, this has led to the unnecessary delivery of excess sediment directly to the watercourse. Given that the works are being conducted in the wet-season and sub-tropics, it is the opinion of the reviewers that serious weather events should have been anticipated and that these additional preparations should have been undertaken. (Emphasis in original, page 41)
- ‘It is recommended that the SDA approval conditions for future projects of a similar nature explicitly prohibit works in waterways during the wet season’. (Page 41)
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