Thursday, 31 March 2016

How to turn a NSW North Coast family beach from terrific to toxic

In 2014 Evans Head on the NSW Far North Coast scored a 100% rating for having a good or very good rating on all its beaches, with Main Beach being scored Very Good in the State of the Beaches 2013-14 report.

Main Beach, Evans Head, 1 October 2014
Twenty-one months on from that environmental accolade and this is Main Beach sand as at 20 March 2016
The Northern Star, 24 June 2015:

DREDGING will start this week on the Evans River and boat harbour at Evans Head.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the NSW Government contributed more than $550,000 toward the Evans Head dredging project. 
"The works are funded under the NSW Government's Dredging of Priority Waterways on the North Coast program which supports commercial fishing fleets and leisure boating through navigational dredging," he said.
"Maintaining access to coastal river entrances and harbours is vital to regional economies and this program focuses on work between Forster and Tweed Heads with provision of work at other locations.
"The work at Evans Head was due to commence this week (22 June) to dredge 18,000 cubic metres of clean marine sand from the Evans River navigation channel that will be used to renourish the beach area between the Evans River northern breakwater and the Beach Street carpark.
"Another 2,000 cubic metres of sediment will be dredged from the boat harbour and pumped into geotextile bags. "
Once dewatered, the sediment will then be transported offsite to a licensed landfill facility.
"The dredging contract for the $564,225 project was awarded to National Dredging Services, a local company based in Yamba," Mr Gulaptis said…..

Echo NetDaily, 1 February 2016:
In a letter to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development group has blasted the Crown Lands department for the quality of spoil dumped on Main Beach last year during dredging operations.

Group spokesperson Dr Richard Gates said ‘In my view the whole dredging process has damaged the beach and the contaminated spoil has probably acted to attract sharks to the area via direct or indirect means’.

Dr Gates said photographic evidence showed that Crown Lands and other departments had failed to ensure that the quality of spoil dumped on Main Beach was consistent with the natural sands of the area.

Photos show black sludge containing material such as oyster shells being dumped on the beach, or being released into the ocean.

He said the Richmond Valley Council had been left to try clean up the mess.

‘In my view there needs to be a thorough review of this whole process,’ he said.

‘Richmond Valley Council has been left to clean up a contaminated beach.  Who will be picking up the bill?

‘And I would like to know why material incompatible with the beach and the ocean was dumped on the Main Beach at Evans Head and who made the decision to allow that to happen.

‘Where were the monitoring authorities and why was no oversight given to the process by independent agencies?

Echo NetDaily, 29 March 2016:
A residents’ group in Evans Head is demanding that a dredge operator pay to clean up Evans Head’s Main Beach after dumping contaminated material on it.
The material, which includes oyster shells, shell fragments, shards of glass, metal cans and organic matters, has resulted in visitors avoiding the beach, and some getting cut feet.
The Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Incorporated (EHRSDI) has lodged a complaint about the dumping, and is now asking why the Richmond Valley Council is moving the contaminated material further up the beach.
EHRSDI spokesman Dr Richard Gates said the contaminated spoil dumped on the Main Beach opposite the Surf Club during a dredging program last year in the Evans River.
‘A comprehensive photographic record shows that not only was a considerable amount of the spoil not compatible with the beach but that the spoil was taken from parts of the Evans River which were identified as being not appropriate for the beach,’ Dr Gates said.
‘That material should have been removed and bunded as happened with contaminated material from the boat harbour.
He said despite repeated attempts by council to clean the beach of the contamination with a raking program the shell fragments and glass, etc., continue to appear.
‘And a sand cliff has formed at the beach which makes it difficult for Surf Life Saving to get its rescue equipment to the water,’ he said…..
Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc. had this to say on Facebook, 23 March 2016:

So what has the EPA had to say about problems with dredging at Evans Head? Well here is their response with names removed.

They received comprehensive information from us about what had happened:

"Thank you for your emails of 19, 22 and 23 November 2015 regarding the dredging works in the Evans River. I appreciate you taking the time to bring these issues to our attention. 

Given that Crown Lands is responsible for assessing and approving the works in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, it is appropriate to discuss the content of the REF with Crown Lands. Towards this end I understand that Mr XXXXXXXXXXXX of Crown Lands contacted you last week to discuss the issues you have raised with the project. 

Crown Lands is currently undertaking a number of navigation dredging projects in the north coast region. Some of these have been recently completed, including the Evans River project. 

The EPA has received several complaints regarding these dredging projects and has conducted inspections in responding to these complaints. This culminated in a recent meeting with Crown Lands regarding the environmental performance of dredging projects in the region. This meeting focused on the environmental issues which have been identified and discussed future refinements to the assessment and management processes to deliver enhanced environmental outcomes in the future. 

In response Crown Lands has agreed to revise its current processes in the following manner :
• A more robust assessment of potential sediment disposal locations;
• A more robust assessment of sediment dewatering methodologies that are to be based on site specific sediment characteristics;
• Improved community consultation;
• Improved management and supervision of dredging contractors; and
• Improved water quality management.
Given the nature of the issues which have been identified during the current dredging program the EPA will be closely monitoring future dredging projects. 
If you identify any further issues with future dredging programs I encourage you to contact our Environment Line on 131 555.”

So they had a bit of chat with Crown Lands about getting dredging projects right in future!!!!!! Wait a moment. We're missing something here. So there is a major stuff up with a beach in a community which depends on tourism for its survival and all the EPA can do is make it a 'learning experience' for another government department. Where is the chat with the operator?

You and I stuff up and government agencies are all over us. A powerful department and its contractor stuff up big time and all that happens is they have a chat and are told to learn from their experience so that they can get it right next our expense!!!! In our view we are being failed badly, very badly yet again by our environment protection authority which is fundamentally a licencing agency for pollution. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. If you are concerned about the beach and what is happening and you think there is a risk to the public there is always the Environment Line 131 555. And you don't need to give your name.

Both the operator and NSW Department of Primary Industries have a lot to answer for.

National Dredging Services (NDS) states it carries a $20 million public liability insurance policy on its works sites – perhaps the good people of Evans Head should be contacting the company and its insurer to inquire as to what a policy of this type actually covers and ask if the company also carries additional insurance.

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