Seven years of clearfelling commences in Gippsland's domestic water supply

Friends of the Earth Melbourne Press release 17th March 2011 Friends of the Earth today warned that the South Gippsland communities of Toora, Welshpool and Port Welshpool, could start to experience declining quality of drinking water after observing yesterday that logging had commenced in the water supply for these communities. The logging probably started three weeks ago said Friends of the Earth Landuse Researcher Anthony Amis. The logging is being conducted by Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) in the headwaters of the Agnes River system.

From information provided to Friends of the Earth it would appear that several hundred hectares of 30 year old reforestation will be logged in the headwaters of the Agnes River over the next 7 years. “Such widespread clearfelling will lead to a deterioration of water quality in the Agnes River”, Mr Amis said. “Logging roads need to be constructed into the logging coupes, and these roads can be a source of enormous loads of sediment. There is also the high likelihood that soil disturbed during logging will also become mobile” Mr Amis said.

“From our visit to a logging coupe yesterday, the roads were in a terrible state, with non existent drainage. It had also been apparent that the logging had been carried out during very wet weather. All of these problems compound the sedimentation problem as well as some of the steepness of future logging sites” Mr Amis added. Wellington Shire is responsible for enforcing Code of Forest Practices in the Agnes River.

“It is highly likely that because of the extent of the logging, the Agnes River will become more silty leading to higher turbidity readings at the offtake which supplies drinking water to Toora, Welshpool and Port Welshpool. This in turn could mean that South Gippsland Water will have to increase the use of coagulant chemicals such as Aluminum Sulphate (Alum), as a way of settling out the sediment” Mr Amis concluded.

“There is a causal link between aluminum concentration and Alzenhemiers Disease. Aluminum has also been linked to Parkinsons Disease and can cause problems for people undertaking kidney dialysis. One hopes that dosing drinking water with high levels of Alum does not occur, but it can't be ruled out, particularly if heavy rain occurs during and after logging" Mr Amis concluded.

High turbidity levels can also impact on the aquatic values of the Agnes Water and Nooramunga Marine Reserve, smothering habitat for invertebrates which in turn could affect fish populations in the river. Logging will also impact on water yield, as young regrowth will consume large quantities of water.