*Main Pic: Frances Bender speaks at a public meeting on Thursday October 29 in Cygnet Town Hall of Neighbours of Fish Farms (NOFF). There were around 50 present.
• Listen to an audio file of the meeting:
Pic above October 5th 2015 – 2km downstream from the Huon Aquaculture sewage** discharge into the Russell River, Lonnavale
Dear Rosalie Woodruff,
Thank you for your comments on tonight’s ABC Tasmania News which covered Petuna Aquaculture’s investment in a best practice Recirculation System (RAS) in Cressy and have moved away from the “no longer considered best practice” Flow Through Pond system which is still being used in Tasmania in 2015.*
It is long overdue that this bourgeoning high profit Aquaculture industry finally accepts that the antiquated Flow Through systems must be closed down – they have been banned in some countries and they are causing demonstrable Environmental Harm and Environmental Nuisance to our Inland rivers and our local Communities.
For the past 10+ years, and still to this day, the Huon Aquaculture Company situated on the Russell River in Lonnavale – every day of the year diverts some 26 million litres of pristine mountain stream water, regardless of the river flow, into their 11 outdoor Flow Through Ponds. After coursing through the Fish Ponds this nutrient rich effluent water (sewage **) is discharged further downstream back into our Community River. The Snowy Range Hatchery, situated on the Little Denison River also in Lonnavale, is using the same Flow Through Pond process with a licence to extract some 20 million litres of pristine water every day .
On some days of the year, certainly in our warmer months, (Huon Aquaculture – confirmed to me by the EPA) are extracting 100% of the river into their fish ponds – and residents downstream have no option but to use this effluent rich tainted water after it has flowed through their ponds holding several thousand large brood fish.
On December 4th 2014, Director John Diggle, Inland Fisheries Service, advised me that the IFS and the EPA were working on a review of all the Freshwater Hatcheries in Tasmania – “over the next two months” he told me. I note the ABC news broadcast (last) night reported this review of Tasmanian freshwater hatcheries is still ongoing with a report due sometime in 2016. On December 21st, 2104 it was observed by both the EPA and the IFS that the Snowy Range Hatchery, which is now up for sale at around $3 million as a “lifestyle” business, was causing unacceptable downstream eutrophication of the Little Denison River and that a draft Environmental Protection Notice was to be prepared. Director Wes Ford, EPA, advised me November 25th 2015 that this EPN is still in draft mode – almost 12 months on and no discernible action taken as yet to prevent downstream eutrophication to this little mountain stream.
Sadly it is very evident that Commerce, Corporate profits and the “jobs jobs jobs” mantra appear to dominate in our Aquaculture Industry, and any tangible concern for any damage to our environment is just not on their radar – and even those responsible for regulation and licencing (EPA, IFS and to some extent the Huon Valley Council) are just dragging their feet and making all manner of excuses for their delays in taking any responsible, accountable or timely action. An ineffective EPN served on Huon Aquaculture in September 2014 has failed to show any measurable or visual difference to the dramatic downstream filamentous green algal blooms and a year-round slippery brown riverbed – which simply does not exist upstream from the discharge.
I have requested the Huon Aquaculture Company to supply me with “jpeg” images of any evidence of upstream eutrophication (rather than a few small images embedded in a pdf document in a recent letter from Mrs Frances Bender, which are very difficult to discern) – images I have been pursuing without success for some 8+ years now, and I was advised by Ms Gallichan, Corporate Affairs Officer, HAC November 18th 2015, “We encourage you to take your own images and the photos included in the response from Mrs Bender on 6 November were taken for our internal guidance and provided to you as a gesture of goodwill. For your own investigations, we ask you to take your own images.”
I am even being forced to go through the Right To Information process just to see a copy of the test results of the nutrients in our Community River – and this has also being denied because most of the testing is undertaken by the perpetrator, not the EPA, and in this case, Huon Aquaculture is citing “commercial in confidence” – this is our Community River after all.
An Ecological Study of the Russell River, titled Nutrient and Algal levels in the Russell River and their relationship to discharges from the Huon Aquaculture Company (HAC) farm facility prepared by Professor Peter Davies UTAS in 2009 on behalf of HAC, has twice been denied access through RTI; and the request has now been with the Ombudsman for some 8 months or more.
Petuna Aquaculture has taken the lead by showing respect for our Environment and I commend CEO Mark Porter for this action.
Premier Hodgman issued a press release today http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/pr-article/hatchery-expands-states-salmon-industry1/ advising the Recirculation System “uses less than five per cent of water compared to traditional systems and allows for environmental control of light, temperature and oxygen.”
Unfortunately on this occasion, Premier Hodgman’s copy writers have missed the point – it is not about improvements for the Fish… it is about the benefits of this RAS system to the Environment, to our inland rivers, our flora and fauna.. and most of all, it is about the many residents who live downstream from these polluting antiquated Flow Through systems. Antiquated systems that cost the Companies “nothing” to operate because they rely on the fast flowing pristine oxygen rich mountain water that requires no mechanical pumping, no water purification, no tertiary treatment before discharge.
Every day of the year fish shit from several thousand fish, undigested fish food, and faeces and feed held in suspension after being further abraded in a 40% *** at best ineffective drum filter system, is pouring into our Community’s drinking water – water used to bath our children, wash our vegetables and to water our livestock.
The General Manager of Huon Aquaculture, Mr David Mitchell told me in August 2014 that it would cost his company around one million dollars to convert to a Recirculating System – and he said, this is money we just do not have. Mrs Frances Bender at a recent meeting of Neighbours of Fish Farms last month advised me that HAC has no intention of closing down their Flow Through system, and no intention of installing a Tertiary Sewage treatment plant.
By copy of this email I implore our regulators to act now. I respectfully ask these Aquaculture companies to make the necessary investment and to stop damaging our inland waterways, and I ask our Premier to intervene and give our Community back our inland rivers so that we may once again enjoy fresh mountain water, so our Anglers can catch a Trout without slipping over, and so our children can enjoy a swim in fresh clear water – the way it has always been for the past 100+ years before the Aquaculture Industry established their Flow Through Pond systems.
I am advised there are some 18 freshwater hatcheries operating in Tasmania. An enquiry last week to the Inland Fisheries Service for the names and location of these other hatcheries was declined and I was advised to seek possible disclosure through the Right to Information process – which is now in hand, at my personal cost and at some time in the future.
Thank you again Rosalie for your timely comments.
Lonnavale TAS 7109
* Director John Diggle, July 4th, 2014 – “Flow through systems are no longer considered best practice with all new large fish farms and expansions adopting recirculating systems as industry best practice”
** Sewage “channel from a fish pond” – Australian Macquarie Dictionary page 902
*** Industry sources quoting the inefficiencies of the drum filter
Pic above taken (by me) October 8th 2015 after 4+ weeks of asking the EPA to investigate. Pictured is a Senior EPA officer who for some unknown reason to me, did the testing with the assistance of an employee/consultant to the Huon Aquaculture Company. They arrived together in the HAC employee’s vehicle…. the grey Fergie tractor is mine.
I was advised by Director Wes Ford November 25th 2015 that I will be provided with a short report in “coming weeks”. It is almost 8 weeks and I still have not been provided with any comment or any results.
After 8+ years I am still waiting to be advised by either the EPA or the Huon Aquaculture Company the name and species of the various algae that proliferate year round downstream from the effluent discharge – however I have been assured “it will not harm anyone”.
Pic above is taken same day, October 8th 2015, 30 minutes after the pic above. This pic is 2km upstream from the HAC Flow Through System discharge – no sign whatsoever of any filamentous green algae. I am advised by Director EPA that the EPA officer took her own photos on her mobile phone that reportedly show evidence of upstream algae, however, I am advised by Director EPA that these will not be provided to me.
*MEDIA RELEASES ...
• Paul Tapp in Comments: Paul Tapp published this comment in the New York Times on this article … “Big dollars and big PR in this industry. The pristine Eastern seaboard of Tasmania, Australia, is on the brink of atlantic salmon farming. Politicians turn a blind eye to the potential ecological perils of such expansion as it generates regional jobs ... and increases the value of company shareholdings to investors. How many State, Federal and Local politicians have shares? It takes decades for fish-borne diseases to interfere with the integrity of pristine marine ecosystems and so our grandchildren will be asking the question…‘what was it like once grandpop’?
• Former Director EPA Alex Schaap in a signed letter 19th November 2014 to Geoffrey Swan, Lonnavale ...
3 Dec 2015 — 12 months on and NO change despite this signed letter from the EPA.
“As previously advised, I agree with you that excessive algal growth in the Russel River is unsatisfactory from both an ecological and an environmental amenity basis.”
“I also agree that this situation ·should have been remedied some years ago and I remain committed to appropriately remedying the issue.”
“Having said that, the risks to the longer term ecological health of the river through nutrient enrichment must be addressed and, in any event, there has clearly been a substantial impact on environmental amenity during warmer low flow periods which warrants resolution sooner rather than later.”
• Richard Dax in Comments: I have fished these rivers and waded virtually their entire length for over 30 years. In 2006 first the escaped salmon proliferation in the Russell followed by the creation of a sludgy bottom making it a dangerous practice to wade and fly fish. Then came the long green weed and the reduction in hook up rates by some 80%. All this is below the hatchery while the waters above (truly demonstrated by the published ‘photos, remain clear and pristine and the catch rates mirror those once available below the hatchery. The authorities I have dealt with over the last nine years readily admit that the hatchery is at fault yet seem unwilling or unable to insist that remedial action is carried out by the perpetrators. I support the salmon industry but not to the exclusion of the environment. It seems clear that our masters believe the expansion of salmon farming is more important than the environment we leave to subsequent generations.