Cameras sent down storm drains as part of an investigation into the deaths of Port River dolphins

Cameras sent down storm drains as part of an investigation into the deaths of Port River dolphins

Cameras have been sent through a stormwater system that drains into the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary to investigate leaks of arsenic and other heavy metals into the Port River.

The Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron has been calling for action against industrial pollution in the Port River and Sanctuary since 2016.

He claims polluted water – containing arsenic, iron, chlorine and other toxins – is being pumped into his Outer Harbor marina through a storm drain under Coglan Road.

Squadron committee member David Eldridge said fish and dolphins had disappeared from the pool and native rats had died.

He said the squadron spent $12,000 on commercial divers to remove two walls of silt accumulation near the drain.

“The only time we get effluent from this pipe is when it’s not raining and someone is pumping effluent into our marina,” he said.

David Eldridge stands in front of the Outer Harbor Marina.
Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron committee member David Eldridge first noticed the pollution in 2016.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

He said it was good that Renewal SA was now “in the picture quite strongly” after a parliamentary committee began investigating his concerns.

“It’s too late for the dolphins that have died, but we want this marina to be in top shape for the fish, the dolphins, the native rats and the birds that feed here,” Mr Eldridge said.

Sightings of the mammal at the sanctuary have dropped 30% in the past five years, and not a single calf has lived beyond the age of three since 2019.

A dolphin above the water
Activists estimate fewer than 15 native Port River dolphins remain.(Provided: Marianna Boorman )

In a statement, Renewal SA – which owns Coglan Road – said the agency received a report in 2021 that dirty water was being dumped into the Port River by a nearby business.

“This business is located on private land, which means that any compliance obligations rest with this business,” a spokeswoman for Renewal SA said.

“Staff from Port Adelaide Enfield Council and the Environmental Protection Authority visited the business, who then implemented control measures to prevent accidental storm water pollution.”

Dolphin Rocket - Port River
Dolphin sightings at the sanctuary have dropped 30% over the past five years. (Provided: Marianna Boorman)

But in response to continued pollution entering the marina, Renewal SA said it employed a stormwater engineer to “map the catchment area of ​​the drain” and investigate any potential contamination using cameras.

“Evidence of any potential environmental violations will be forwarded to the EPA for investigation,” the spokeswoman said.

She said Renewal SA could also install a “pollution trap” which would catch any pollutants before they reach the marina.

After years of unsuccessful attempts to raise the issue with Renewal SA, the council and the EPA, the squadron has decided to submit a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the Port River dolphins.

The committee is currently investigating why members of the unique group continue to die and will receive an interim report to the government by next month.

MLC Greens Tammy Franks stands on the semaphore pier
Greens MLC Tammy Franks is leading the parliamentary inquiry. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Committee members Tammy Franks, Michelle Lensink and Sarah Game visited the marina late last month.

Ms Franks, an MLC from the Greens, said it had been interesting to see the difference between “what the bureaucrats are telling you” and “what is actually happening”.

“The committee helps connect the dots and see that no one is taking responsibility – but no one has the ability to take responsibility,” she said.

“It seems like everything related to this area is being dumped too hard because there are too many authorities involved.”

Dolphin activist Mike Bossley estimates there are fewer than 15 Port River natives left, which he says is about “half of what it was before”.

The council told the inquest that one of the main problems facing the Port River is confusion over which government department, agency or organization is responsible for water quality.

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