Activists are asking for further tests to determine whether water from Abbot Point, which spilled into an adjacent wetlands, was polluted.
Activists are asking for further tests to determine whether water from Abbot Point, which spilled into an adjacent wetlands, was polluted. Queensland Government

REVEALED: Investigation launched into Adani port release

THE State Government has begun investigating the release of polluted water into the Caley Valley wetlands from Adani's neighbouring Abbot Point coal port, near Bowen.

Environmentalists claim the release showed Adani did not have the capacity to operate in sensitive environments, but the State Government said the port appeared to be operating within licensed limits.

The company has also defended its operations.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection said it became aware last week of the satellite imagery which appears to show sediment-laden water flowing from the Abbott Point coal terminal settlement ponds into the Caley Valley wetland.

It said sites such as Abbott Point Coal Terminal were allowed to release water of suitable quality under certain conditions of their environmental authority and they can apply for a temporary emissions licence.

It said Abbot Point was granted a temporary emissions licence during Tropical Cyclone Debbie which allowed for a temporary increase in the release limits for total suspended solids.

An image on Google Earth before Cyclone Debbie.
Abbot Point Coal Terminal before Cyclone Debbie tore through the area. Google Earth

"Initial monitoring results indicate releases to Caley Valley Wetland were in accordance with the temporary emission licence conditions,'' the department said.

"EHP's investigation is continuing, including accessing historical satellite imagery to compare wetland colour and depth fluctuations.''

The Mackay Conservation Group said it was dismayed by the spill in 5000 hectare wetlands that were home to more 40,000 shorebirds during the wet season.

"These images show the lack of capacity Adani has to operate in a sensitive environment," said Mackay Conservation Group co-ordinator, Peter McCallum.

"It's obvious that Adani doesn't know how to manage its existing facilities in a way that will protect the wetlands, or perhaps the company just doesn't care.

"Nobody should be able to get away with causing harm as terrible as this without facing severe penalties."

"We have no confidence that Adani will be able to manage the environmental impacts of the port expansion or any other aspect of its massive coal mining operation."

"This is further evidence of Adani's poor environmental record. Australia can't risk allowing them to set up business here."

Caley Valley Wetland covers an area about 5000ha and is home to more than 40,000 shorebirds during the wet season.

Compared with pictures in 2016 and 2015, the most recent shot show a black mass spreading down the Caley Valley Wetland.

Released by the Queensland Government, the satellite image was taken to document damage caused by the cyclone in the Whitsunday region.

Mr McCallum wanted further tests to determine how much the wetland had been impacted.

Abbot Point was established in 1984 and was leased to Adani through their Mundra Port on a 99-year lease in 2011.

The company planned to expand the port to handle increased coal exports, predominantly from the proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin.

Adani was confident their handling of the terminal during the cyclone met industry standards.

"In the wake of Cyclone Debbie, Adani has been in close liaison with DEHP to ensure it meets rigorous standards," the spokesperson said.

"In this regard water testing is ongoing and the department is being actively consulted."