‘Toxic’ river row

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Email Jackson Lavell-Lee
Peel Terrace resident Howard George believes the Lower Vasse River needs to be drained and toxic waste removed
Camera IconPeel Terrace resident Howard George believes the Lower Vasse River needs to be drained and toxic waste removed Credit: Busselton-Dunsborough Times, Jackson Lavell-Lee

The City of Busselton is under fire for its handling of the Eastern Link project, with Peel Terrace residents concerned about the impact on the Lower Vasse River.

Busselton conservationist Howard George has described the state of the river as “embarrassing” and said visitors would be deterred from returning to Busselton by its “toxic amenity”. Mr George accused the City of Busselton of not regulating the environmental offset of its Eastern Link project, suggesting dead animals and rubbish from the development had polluted the river.

The comments come as the contentious project’s earthworks near completion.

Mr George has been an outspoken critic of the Eastern Link development, and advocates for dredging and cleaning the Lower Vasse River.

“This year is probably the worst I’ve seen the wetlands and the river,” he said.

“The construction of the Eastern Link has stirred up the acid sulphate soils and intermingled with the water, making it toxic.”

City of Busselton acting chief executive Oliver Darby said work on the Eastern Link project had been monitored closely by an external environmental consultant.

“The City has not received any notice from the consultant that the development has breached any environmental conditions associated with the approvals and conditions imposed. Nor has the development contravened the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act,” he said.

Mr Darby said there was no evidence of dead animals and the impact on the river itself was minimal.

The City has previously implemented several projects to improve water quality, including separation curtains and monitoring the river’s health via the Vasse Taskforce.

A spokesman for the Department of Water and Environmental Regulations said the City of Busselton was responsible for ensuring the development did not affect water quality.

He said DWER provided advice to the City of Busselton regarding erosion, sediment and spill controls to minimise impacts during construction.

Mr George said he believed the river needed “something significant” to be done to revive it.

“I believe what they should do is pump all the water out and get in there with the loaders and clean the river up,” he said.

City of Busselton director of planning and development services Paul Needham said dredging had been considered to remove sediment, but it could be removed in other ways.

“A major challenge with removing so much sediment would also be finding a place to dispose of or use the sediment,” he said.

“Further, environmental approvals would certainly be required, and it is difficult to see how approvals could be obtained to completely drain the river, even for a short period of time, given the potential impact on the Carter’s freshwater mussel populations in the river.”

The Eastern Link Development roadworks are expected to be completed in June.

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