Comments: Disaster on a Global Scale

1st June 2009

Dear Editor,

I read with dismay the article in Saturday's Advertiser "Disaster on a

Global Scale". Particularly worrying was the statement by Environment and

Heritage CEO, Allan Holmes:

"The science says it may be best to bioremediate than let in seawater. It

could do more damage if we let in seawater".

What "science" is he referring to? Could it be that promulgated by the

well-meaning, but ill-informed groups who advocate a fresh water solution at

all costs? As a retired aquatic biology scientist, I am aware of quite a

few other reputable scientists who believe that the solution to the present

crisis is to open the barrages to the sea, and let the system return to an

estuarine condition, the natural state before the barrages were built. Far

from causing damage, this would stop the further development of acid

sulphate soils which are now reaching crisis levels. As well, a new,

fluctuating marine/freshwater system would develop to include seagrass

meadows supporting fish nurseries, and migratory birds etc. Our Ramsar

obligations would then be modified to accommodate the changed wetland

ecology ( This is a far cry from the total destruction of

virtually all living things in the system if the lakes continue to acidify.

There is not enough fresh water to mitigate this, and it is irresponsible to

allow the little that we do have to spread over the lakes surface and

evaporate (

Bioremediation and liming of the vast lakes area is slow and expensive, and

would likely not work in the longer term, since it would only treat the top

few cm of soil. The sediments containing sulphides are metres deep, just

waiting to oxidise to sulphuric acid should the plants die from salinity,

high temperatures, lack of rainfall, or even the acid itself. The

production of lime is very greenhouse unfriendly, since it involves the

heating of limestone to release carbon dioxide, leaving the calcium oxide


Your own editorial in the same edition mentioned CSIRO work indicating that

the seawater solution is the only practical one available; however, I

disagree that it would be a disaster for freshwater plants and animals.

These would migrate or decrease naturally, and be replaced by salt-tolerant

species, of which there are numerous examples existing right now around the

lakes. Just think of the Gippsland lakes as examples of what could happen.

To be so heavily influenced by certain groups which are particularly vocal,

this government could be shooting itself in the foot if the present trends

continue. I ask them to consider what will happen to the vines in places

like Langhorne Creek when they are covered with toxic, acidic dust blown in

from the surface of the dry lake beds?

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Gordon-Mills