Over the past weekend I took the time for an amble around the old CSR Sugar refinery site at Pyrmont. This was largely so I could take a few shots of the ex HMAS Adelaide, at her Glebe Island mooring.
The more I look at this ship, the clearer it is that the proposed scuttling of the ship, 1.7 kms off Avoca Beach, is an extraordinary miscalculation on the part of both state and federal governments.
There are compelling environmental reasons related to both the potential for pollution and the disruption of coastal processes that have been advanced in the campaign to prevent the scuttling. Just putting those aside for the moment, I’d like to reflect on the out of site out of mind attitude we adopt towards our coastal waters and oceans. Growing up in Coogee, the experience of swimming with sewage was a common one. As a child I took the recurring fevers and strange periods of illness in my stride. It didn’t ever occur to me that perhaps there was a link between my love of the sea, of fishing, surfing and skin diving, and these periods of illness. Not till I was able to observe the relative absence of such bouts of illness in my own children did I begin to consider that my childhood might not have been as healthy as I once thought. Years later when the sewage outfalls for Sydney were located further out so sea, and the quality of immediate coastal waters dramatically improved, I recognised just what a dirty stretch of coastline I’d swum in as a child.
After writing my initial draft I happened upon this graph from the NSW Environmental Protection Agency, now subsumed by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, that really says it all (ISBN 0 7313 2776 4. EPA 2001/49. June 2001).
The noticeable improvement in the quality of water in Sydney Harbour, it’s decreasing turbidity and the dramatic reduction in storm water borne pollutants with the solid waste booms in place, is also a great contrast for me. As a child I often visited my father when he was in port and remember the fetid margins of the Harbour. Of course the dioxin impregnated sediments at the bottom of large stretches of the Parramatta river are only evident to those who’ve been unfortunate enough to regularly consume fish from this tract of the harbour. Fortunately the NSW Food Authority now warns people that:
- No seafood caught west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge should be eaten. You should release your catch.
- For seafood caught east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge generally no more than 150 grams per month should be consumed.
Commercial fishing in Sydney Harbour has been banned since 2006 when tests revealed elevated dioxin levels in the systems of inner harbour fishers and their families.
Later today I’m off on a short photographic assignment at Botany Bay, another sad example of mismanagement of our coastal resources. Fundamentally the system for waste disposal in our coastal waters has been one of out of site out of mind. Sydney still uses a Roman System of sewage disposal.
Let’s not allow Avoca to become yet another example of gross coastal mismanagement, just for the sake of a few people who’d like to dive onto a wreck site. There are other wrecks along the coast.