Bug farm ?errors

THIS response to our story about the proposed ABLP Bay Lobster project at Chinderah was received from project biologist David Hewitt.

The letter has been edited slightly for length.

Articles (in the local press) have carried comments and opinions from people who are either greatly misinformed or who are misrepresenting the project for their own ends.

Prior to the lodgement of the Development Application (DA) for the proposed Bay Lobster project ABLP briefed the NSW state government, the Tweed Shire Council and conducted public meetings for Chinderah, Cudgen and Kingscliff residents. Letters of information regarding the development inviting comments were sent to immediate neighbours, including the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative, and residents overlooking the proposed development.

No representatives of ABLP were invited to the meeting held recently, apparently to garner opposition to the Bay Lobster project. The misinformation which appears to have been spread at this meeting could have been quickly addressed had an invitation been extended.

Apart from the meeting mentioned above, response to the ABLP proposal at the public meetings conducted in the Tweed was generally very supportive, with many people asking ABLP to consider a tourism/education addition to the project.

In support of the DA, ABLP was required to compile a Statement of Environmental Effect (SEE) to determine the impact of the development on the environment. The SEE component studies included surveying, flood impact assessment, geotechnical, noise impact, visual impact, traffic impact, seawater intake and return, heritage and flora and fauna.

In all cases, these studies (conducted by qualified consultants) predicted either no effect or minimal effect on the environment.

It should be pointed out that as part of the design-and-risk mitigation management of the facilities, all inputs into the production of Bay Lobster are treated, including the seawater, air and feed.

Contrary to a statement made by Mr Brinsmead that he was initially supportive of the ABLP proposal until he sighted the Development Application, a letter from Mr Brinsmead advising ABLP of his objection towards the Bay Lobster proposal was received two weeks prior to the DA being placed on public exhibition. No reason for his objection was outlined in the three-line letter.

It had been suggested that the ABLP development will increase flooding in the Chinderah section of the Tweed River floodplain during large flood events.

WBM Oceanics using the latest comprehensive model of the Tweed floodplain (developed for the Tweed Shire Council) modelled the effect of the Bay Lobster project on one-in-100-year flood heights. ABLP was required to model flood effects not only from its own development but also from all other proposed development on the Tweed floodplain.

The resulting analysis clearly shows that with or without other developments included, the bunding of the ABLP project does not result in a significant increase in one-in-100-year flood heights.

WBM Oceanics determined that the effect of the ABLP development alone was to increase flood heights to the immediate west of the development by less than 20 millimetres and east of the development by less than 10 millimetres. By no stretch of the imagination could these increases be called significant in the context of a 3.3-metre (10 foot) flood height from a one-in-100-year flood.

The statement that the seven tonnes per day of squid used as feed in the project will be fermented before feeding to the Bay Lobster is completely untrue. The frozen squid will be processed in a hygienic food-processing plant, washed and chopped prior to feeding to Bay Lobster. Food will be weighed prior to feeding to ensure that the amount of uneaten food is minimised. There is no fermentation of squid and no significant odour. Any slight odour generated is kept inside and destroyed.

Further comment was made that ABLP will pump an extra 1.8 million litres of farm effluent back to the Tweed River via the Kingscliff sewerage treatment plant. This is correct when Stages 1 to 3 are operating (year 2010).

However, a false image has been created of pig/cattle-type waste flowing into the Kingscliff treatment plant. The reality is that the "farm effluent" referred to is in fact "treated seawater". Seawater used in the process of growing Bay Lobster is treated on site in arguably the most sophisticated marine water treatment system in Australia, using world-bestpractice technology.

The treated seawater released from the proposed ABLP site will enter the Kingscliff Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) discharge pipeline to travel to the Tweed River, it will not enter the Kingscliff WWTP itself, therefore will not affect the WWTP processes in any way.

Another commentator has apparently ascertained that "the potential is there for the salt water to sterilise the surrounding cane land for a distance up to three kilometres around the plant". This statement is just plain wrong, and at worst misleading.

The environmental assessment clearly states the growing of Bay Lobster will be conducted in above-ground fibreglass raceways not ponds. These raceways are in a controlled environment within greenhouse structures and are not exposed to the outside environment. It is also clearly stated in the SEE that the in-ground storages for incoming seawater and rainwater are sealed with high density polyethylene liners to prevent seepage of seawater into the ground. The storage ponds also have covers over them to prevent contamination of the stored water by dirt and leaves. There are no earthen ponds containing seawater in the proposed development.

The comparison of this project to a prawn farm reveals an abysmal lack of information about the ABLP project. The Ayr prawn farm mentioned in regards to salination of the ground is not in any way similar to the design, construction or methodology of the proposed ABLP facility.

I again invite anyone with such a concern to contact us and have the matter addressed in a manner that satisfies both parties. Unfounded comments in the media cannot be helpful to anyone and can only hope to obscure the facts regarding the proposed development.

Thank you.

David Hewitt, PhD

Project Biologist ABLP

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