In 1997, with much fanfare and an associated public relations campaign, Melbourne Water released their ‘1992-1996 Port Phillip Bay Environment Study’. Images of clear bay waters, colourful fish and dolphins flashed across TV screens, full page newspaper advertisements and even the sides of city trams.
The study was conducted by the CSIRO at a cost of $12 million. The findings which according to the Minister for Conservation, Mrs Marie Tehan, gave the bay an ‘environmental clean bill of health’ were released to the public in the form of a 32 page “glossy” which lifted selected data interpretation from the studies thousands of pages of research data.
*”Tests for organic toxicants detected Phthalate Esters, PCB’s, Phenol’s, Chlorinated Hydrocarbons in Flathead and Mullet.”
*”Petroleum Hydrocarbons exceeded the threshold for taste-tainting in fish flesh at three separate sites”.
*”Port Phillip Bay is chronically contaminated with Petroleum and Chlorinated Hydrocarbons”.
*”It is estimated (heavy metals in sewage effluent from Werribee) in general represent an increase of between 20% and 50% compared to 1980-81 data.”
*Dieldrin in fish liver was twice the health limit (in the Geelong Arm).”
*Mussels from sites such as the Rippleside area still exceed the health limits (for lead contamination).”
*”Lesions, local haemorrhages and cutaneous erytherma were found on Spikey Globefish after a major fish kill.”
*”Sand Flathead had severe visceral haemosiderosis. The condition was accompanied by high tissue cadmium and lead.”
*”Industries holding current licences are self regulating, with reports of discharged concentrations being supplied to the EPA who do not have the resources to undertake checks of the data.”