Thousands of fish bob in the Fitzroy River near South Yaamba Road
Thousands of fish bob in the Fitzroy River near South Yaamba Road Contributed ROK

Dead fish raise concerns over water quality

10am: The State Labor Party members are calling on the State Government to launch an independent inquiry into whether the release of mine water into the Fitzroy River led to the death of thousands of fish.

Shadow Environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said reports of dead fish piled along the river were extremely concerning, particularly given the government recently approved the release of toxic mine water into the Fitzroy River.

"The people of Rockhampton and surrounding communities deserve answers," Ms Trad said.

"The fact remains if the fish kill and toxic water are linked, then any of the water testing promised by the government has not made a difference.

"The people who end up drinking that water need to know the facts.

"The State Government has been arrogantly deflecting questions about the environmental and health impacts of their mine water releases which is why any investigation into these deaths must be independent.

"Any investigation should be led by experts with first-hand knowledge of the local environment and are on the ground to undertake immediate assessments."

Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne said the State Government had so far failed to consult or engage with locals about this issue, leaving the community completely in the dark.

Bill Byrne.
Bill Byrne.

"This government waited until late on a Friday before the Australia Day long weekend, after newsrooms had clocked-off, to announce the first release of mine water," Mr Byrne said.

"The government knows it has made an unpalatable decision that local residents completely oppose.

"Instead of forcing mining companies to deal with their own excess water, the LNP are simply allowing the problem to flow through to our local communities and local environments."

9.40am: GREENPEACE campaigner Louise Matthiesson says one of the paragraphs in this story could be read incorrectly and wishes to clarify the matter.

She is talking about this paragraph - "She believed the state government was responsible for the mass wastage of river stock because more than 20 mine sites were discharging "polluted" water into the Fitzroy River."

Ms Matthiesson says she was very careful not to say that the mine discharges are responsible for the fish kill, because there is currently no evidence of that, and there are a number of possible causes.

"I did say that the state government is responsible for investigating the cause of the fish kill. I also said it is reasonable for residents to be concerned about the discharge of polluted water from mines upstream and the impact it could have on water quality in the river."

5am: WHEN Sharon Meehan got to the Fitzroy River near her house yesterday she saw thousands of dead bodies in front of her.

Mass murder, carelessness ... call it what you want, Sharon has never seen such a disaster on this scale.

Sharon lives near the Fitzroy River in South Yaamba Road at Alton Downs.

Just yesterday she was able to get to the river, after floodwater blocked access to the bank, only to find more than a thousand fish bobbing on the water.

Some she said were lifeless on the bank, gasping for air.

She scooped up a one-metre-long catfish, dead.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking," she said.

"I have fished down here for many years and have never seen anything like this before.

"The smell is absolutely vomitous. I don't know what caused this but I know the death of so many fish has something to do with what's in the water.

"If this has happened because of mine discharges into the river then the State Government has a lot to answer for ... they're just seeing dollar signs at the end of the day."

Among the dead fish species were barramundi, bream, catfish and others.

Thousands of small dead fish were piled in Rockhampton's East Street as their bodies emerged after the water subsided.

More dead fish, in the thousands, were found wasted at Weir Park near Gogango after the floodwater receded.

Now Sharon is gravely concerned about the quality of the water, which she drinks if her tank runs out.

She is now left to pump "dirty and smelly" water from the river to her house.

"This water helps me with my everyday chores like washing the dishes, clothes and cleaning."

Queensland campaigner for Greenpeace Louise Matthiesson said she believed the State Government was responsible for the mass wastage of river stock because more than 20 mine sites were discharging "polluted" water into the Fitzroy River.

"It's very unusual for this amount of dead fish to wash up in a large body of water because it's not as confined as a small creek," Ms Matthiesson said.

"These residents, and the rest of Rockhampton, have a right to know what's going on ... we have got to get to the bottom of this

"It really stinks out here at Alton Downs and the river goes for kilometres. I don't know how much more dead fish is out there on the river bank."

Yesterday Rockhampton residents were out in force on Quay St scooping up live fish, flapping around in shallow water, and filling small bins to take home.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is working with Rockhampton Regional Council to investigate a number of fish deaths around the Rockhampton region, including South Yaamba.

"The council has advised water quality sampling to date indicates very low dissolved oxygen levels as the likely cause of the fish deaths," a department spokesman said.

"Low dissolved oxygen levels are a common, natural occurrence following significant flood events, caused by large amounts of vegetation and other organic matter being washed into waterways and decomposing.

"Because it had previously been so dry, there was significantly more organic material than usual around to be washed into the river by the rains from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald."

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