Papermill Mercury Discharges Accumulate in the Gippsland Lakes
The Australian Paper Manufacturers (APM) Ltd’s paper pulp mill at Maryvale in the Latrobe Valley has discharged mercury-contaminated wastes into the valley airshed, the Latrobe River, and the Latrobe Valley sewerage system for many years. APM’s chlor-alkali plant, which manufactures chlorine and caustic soda for use in the paper manufacturing process, uses mercury electrodes in the electrolytic process which produces these chemicals. Electrolysis converts the mercury into an inorganic state, and it is later discharged as a waste product. Inorganic mercury is not highly toxic, but when discharged to water it is gradually converted into methyl mercury, which accumulates in plants, animals and humans, and in high concentrations is extremely toxic.
APM’s mercury discharge was one of the most pressing problems facing the EPA upon its creation: the discharge had continued virtually unchecked for almost 40 years, the pollutant involved was highly dangerous, the ecosystem needing protection was an important one, and the company involved could marshal unrivalled economic and political muscle. What ensured bordered on a conspiracy to effect harm to the public interest for reasons of private gain: APM leant on the government and the EPA, and consequently the company was virtually able to write its own licence to pollute.
Read the whole story at: Australian Paper – Mercury History Lesson
Mercury poisoning affects fish, dolphins
16 June 2008
“Mercury levels detected are sufficient to cause significant health impacts and were comparable to those found in areas of the world that are considered highly polluted, including the Mediterranean Sea,” Dr Thompson said.
According to the research, recent episodes of elevated mercury concentrations have been reported in the waters of the Latrobe, Avon, Mitchell and Tambo Rivers.
Eventually these contaminated sediments will be deposited within the lakes system.
Some might escape into Bass Strait, but most would be trapped in the Gippsland Lakes.
“Dolphins may be becoming stranded as a direct consequence of mercury contamination which damages their neurological system,” he said.
Dr Thompson said it was critical that further studies were done to ensure any further decline in dolphin health could be identified and managed.