The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is 1,400 miles of some of the most remarkable reef habitat on the planet. It’s largest barrier reef in the world, but it’s been put through the wringer in recent years. Most recently, the reef’s coral and the bleaching epidemic has topped the list of environmental concerns. Add to that pollution issues and the major concern of rising ocean temperatures and you can see why this remarkable natural wonder is at the forefront of environmental efforts in this region of the world.
It seems that things are only going to get worse for the Great Barrier Reef. This month, a loophole in legislation will allow up to a million tons of sludge to be dumped on the reef over the next 10 years. As you might expect, the move isn’t sitting too well with environmentalists. The move has been at the hands of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. There are plans to dredge out the Port of Hay Point, which also happens to be the location of one of the largest coal loading facilities in the world. The by-product of all that dredging is the sludge and sediment that will likely be dumped across the barrier reef.
In 2015, the federal government in Australia put a ban on dumping sludge within the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef. However, the loophole in the legislation is that it only applies to new capital projects. Furthermore, the law doesn’t apply to any projects that are maintenance-related, and that’s exactly what the work at the Port of Hay Point is.
This unfortunate news comes on the heels of another major blow that the Great Barrier Reef just went through. Recently, major flooding in the Queensland resulted in a ton of polluted sediment being washed over portions of the reef, which can do massive damage to the reef’s delicate coral.
Just how damaging the sludge dumping will be depends on when and where it’s dumped. If it’s done during the hottest part of the summer, it could result in an overgrowth of algae that will also damage the coral. Activists have said that while there are measures that can be taken to minimalize the impact, it would be more expensive. However, they’ve also said that the financial burden should be on the shoulders of the port authority and not the environment.