Supervising Scientist, Darwin, 2005
ISBN 0 642 24395 6
ISSN 0 158-4030
Dr. Arthur Johnston, Supervising Scientist
SSD’s mission is to ensure the protection of the Alligator Rivers Region from the effects of uranium mining and to encourage best practice in wetland conservation and management.
With such a strong organisational focus on environmental management and monitoring, we are very conscious of our own environmental profile. Even small resource use changes, such as processing organic waste in onsite worm farms, and decreasing landfill waste by promoting better management of recyclable waste, have led to significant environmental and business gains.
By rethinking our business practices, we have achieved a 20% decrease in vehicle fuel consumption and a 4.6% decrease in electricity consumption in the last year. These are gains SSD is proud of and we have set ourselves new goals that reinforce or better this performance in the coming year.
Dr Arthur Johnston, Supervising Scientist
The Supervising Scientist is a statutory office holder established under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978. The Supervising Scientist Division supports the Supervising Scientist and consists of the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (eriss) and the Office of the Supervising Scientist (oss).
eriss conducts environmental monitoring and research into the effects of uranium mining on the environment and people of the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory. eriss also conducts research on the ecology and conservation of wetlands in the context of tropical river systems.
Theoss is responsible for supervision, audit and policy functions in relation to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region (ARR) as well as corporate support for the Division.
New DEH facility Darwin
The Supervising Scientist Division conducts business from two premises: a new DEH facility leased and located in Darwin and the Jabiru Field Station (JFS), located on the Ranger lease near Kakadu National Park. In 2002, SSD relocated most (90%) of the Jabiru based staff, and the Darwin city based oss staff, along with 8 staff from Parks Australia North’s Darwin city office, to a purpose built facility on the Darwin Airport precinct in Marrara. Currently a number of buildings at the JFS are unoccupied and will eventually require removal to enable the site to be rehabilitated.
SSD research involves widespread fieldwork in the ARR and is assisted and enhanced by the involvement and employment of local indigenous people.
|Office area (m 2 )||1 050||1 207||2 257|
|Laboratory area (m 2 )||2 450||1 860||4 310|
|Total||3 500||3 067||6 567|
Over the past year, SSD has employed a number of indigenous staff under the Community Development and Employment Programme and has provided training in administration, laboratory and fieldwork activities. In addition, local indigenous people are regularly employed in other research projects and programs. The use of local indigenous people has enabled SSD staff to improve relationships with the local community and our understanding of local culture. This has led to improved communications and a better understanding in the community of SSD’s role in the Alligator Rivers Region.
Supervising Scientist Division does not yet have a certified ISO 14001 environmental management system. SSD has established a draft EMS that covers office based operations and is currently working towards expanding this to cover research activities. The development of the EMS is resulting in increased staff awareness and better systems to monitor and reduce SSD’s environmental impact.
SSD is committed to undertaking an environmental aspects assessment with the view of establishing a certified EMS to cover all business activities by December 2006.
SSD uses energy in both Darwin and Jabiru, for buildings, equipment and vehicles. Remote field sites are accessed by 4WD vehicles, quad bikes and aircraft.
During 2004–05, electricity consumption was reduced by raising staff awareness of energy use, including initiatives such as:
shutting down computers over night
switching off of 95% of lighting when buildings are unoccupied.
These efforts have resulted in an overall reduction of electricity usage by 4.59% (160GJ), on the previous year. The use of solar generated hot water system in the DEH Darwin facility also assists with reducing fossil fuel usage.
|Total kWh||967 320||922 879|
|Total MJ||3 482 352||3 322 364|
|Total GJ||3 482||3 322|
|MJ per person per annum||65 705||59 328|
|MJ per m 2 per annum||530||506|
|CO 2 (t)||3 500||3 067|
Consumption includes both SSD and PAN staff. All figures rounded to nearest whole number.
With the aim of better managing and reducing energy consumption, a system to monitor and review the use of both electricity and fossil fuels consumed by operating two facilities has been established.
Promote power conservation to reduce electricity consumption by 2% in 2005–06.
SSD does not have access to green power in the Northern Territory. The Jabiru Field Station is dependent on the Ranger uranium mine to provide electricity for the facility. JFS uses a diesel generator for backup electricity supply.
In the 2004–05 period, 1000 litres of diesel were purchased to ensure the backup supply of electricity. As this is an emergency backup system, there are no goals for energy use reduction for it.
SSD’s current vehicle fleet consists of 11 fleet vehicles, including six 4WDs and five 6cylinder vehicles. Due to extensive fieldwork in remote localities, extreme wet weather conditions for part of the year, and the distance between facilities, vehicles scoring well in the Green Vehicle Guide are not suitable for the SSD fleet.
The JFS also uses a variety of other vehicle types for conducting fieldwork. These include an amphibious vehicle, quad bikes, boats and airboats. Statistics on frequency of use are not available for reporting the effect these vehicles have on the environment.
Helicopters have been used over the past year to access remote sites during the wet season. A total of 5.2 hours flight time has been used in 2004–05 period.
During the 2004–05 period, SSD has reduced transport consumption of fossil fuels by 20%. Total distance travelled in vehicles has also been reduced by 25% in the 2004–05 financial year. The use of video conferencing in lieu of air and vehicle travel for meetings; and the reduction in fleet size in 2003–04 from 14 to 11 vehicles have contributed greatly to the reduction in fuel use.
Quad bike being used to access sampling site at Gulungul Creek, NT
|Total litres||50 634||40 853|
|Total distance travelled||357 728||280 933|
|Average (L) per 100 km||14||14.5|
|Total GJ – Petrol||659||613|
|Total GJ – Diesel||1 211||885|
|Total CO2(t) – Petrol||48||45|
During 2005–06, SSD will assess its current trends in vehicle usage and fuel consumption and look at strategies to further reduce usage and consumption.
During 2005–06, SSD will assess the impact on the environment from using 4WD, boats and quads in off-road areas.
Develop a strategy to minimise our transport-related impact on the environment.
A special effort has been made to increase recycling rates. More bins for co-mingled recyclable products, such as plastics, cardboard, glass and aluminium cans, have been placed in all work and amenity areas. Arrangements with the cleaning contractors ensure these items are placed into the appropriate bins for sending to recycling facilities.
The Jabiru Field Station does not have access to recycling facilities, and all waste is disposed of at the local landfill. A system for monitoring the types of waste disposed of in Jabiru has not yet been established.
During the 2004–05 period, the Darwin facility disposed of 360 tonnes of co-mingled waste to landfill waste and recycled 0.9 tonnes of co-mingled recyclable products. Our waste to landfill generated 432 tonnes of CO 2e in 2004–05. A total of 2.52 tonnes of CO 2 e was also generated from recyclable waste products.
All used printer cartridges are recycled and wherever possible recycled paper and other recycled stationary products are used, including printing some publications on partially recycled paper or paper sourced from sustainable plantation timber.
A worm farm has been established at the Darwin facility and organic waste from the site is composted by the worms. Approximately 3 litres of organic waste is fed to the worms on a weekly basis. Excess worms are used as live food in the aquaculture facility. The introduction of live food to the purple spotted gudgeons (Mogurnda mogurnda) has considerably improved the breeding program. Worm excrement (also known as worm juice) is collected from the farm and used as fertiliser.
Worm feeding at the SDD worm farm
Worm feeding at the SDD worm farm
SSD’s greenhouse gas emissions are mainly from electricity consumption and waste to landfill. A total of 1202.5 tonnes of CO 2 e has been produced for the period of 2004–05.
SSD greenhouse emissions by source (tonnes CO2 e)
Greenhouse emissions rates produced from electricity and waste represent both SSD & PAN. Emissions produced from fuel are solely from SSD.
SSD aims to show a reduction in greenhouse emissions produced for the period 2005–06 through achievement of goals set for reduction of energy and fuel usage and waste produced.
SSD does not currently have a system in place to monitor specific quantities of hazardous waste produced, although any hazardous waste produced through laboratory operations is disposed of in accordance with Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) specifications.
During 2005–06, SSD will start using the Chemwatch database to monitor the use and disposal of chemicals as part of its business operations. The Chemwatch database also provides information on chemical hazards, identification, first aid, first response, personal protective equipment, physical properties, toxicology and regulations.
Water usage figures for the past 12 months for the Darwin facility have been supplied by the building owner. Total water usage for the Darwin facility for 2004–05 was 724 kL. This includes water use for our aquaculture activities, and equates to 65.5 L per person per day currently occupying the facility. Calculations on a per day basis have been estimated on staff being present a total of 230 days per year. Water usage figures at the Jabiru Field Station are not available for the past year.
Monitor consumption in Darwin over 2004-05 and establish a strategy to reduce use.
Establish system to ensure Jabiru Field Station usage figures can be reported for the period 2005-06.
|Total (sheets)||106 500||185 500||292 000|
|Per employee (reams)||4.6||8.1||12.7|
|Per employee (sheets)||2 315.2||4 032.6||6 347.8|
|Sheets per person per day||10.1||17.5||27.6|
Calculations for daily use it based on staff working days of 230 days per year. This table does not incorporate paper usage for production of SSD publications, outsourced printing or paper-based stationary.
Recycling and conservation of paper products has been a focus when promoting the EMS in SSD’s Darwin facility during 2004–05. All work areas have recycling bins for recyclable paper products and white paper. Printers have been fitted with duplexing trays, as well as assigned trays for printing on used white paper. Improvements have been made with the increased purchase of recycled paper for use in photocopiers and printers, and there has been a conversion to purchasing recycled paper stationary, hand towels and toilet paper. Staff have also been encouraged to review and edit their work on screen to reduce use of paper.
Reduce total paper usage by 10% in 2005–06 and to also decrease the amount of virgin paper purchased by 30% for the same period.
Provide statistics on paper usage for publications printed externally in 2005–06.
The cleaning contracts for both the Darwin and the Jabiru facility are currently up for renewal. Specifications for use of environmentally friendly cleaning products have been incorporated into the tender documentation.
SSD conducts extensive amounts of fieldwork in the Alligator Rivers Region, involving the collection of water, flora and fauna samples for analysis and testing as part of the ongoing research programs. Some research requires the collection of vertebrate and invertebrates samples for toxicity testing. The effect of this on the environment is believed to be negligible. This will be assessed as part of the environmental impacts assessment.
A fieldwork site in the wet season - Gulungal Creek, Alligator Rivers Region
Weather stations and gauging stations are located throughout the Alligator Rivers Region to collect data. Access to these data collection sites is usually by 4WD vehicle or boat, and during the wet season also by helicopter.
The JFS is located on the Ranger lease area near Kakadu National Park. It is probable that in the next 5–10 years the site will require rehabilitation. This will be done in consultation with the Traditional Owners of the area who may decide to keep some of the facilities.
SSD owns a number of houses and units in Jabiru that were built for staff in the early 1980s. As with many houses built during that period, some of them contain non-friable asbestos materials.
A formal assessment of the environmental impact of fieldwork in the Alligator Rivers Region will be undertaken over the next year. From this assessment SSD will be able to provide a case study for the 2005–06 TBL report on the impact of SSD on biodiversity resulting from business activities undertaken in the Alligator Rivers Region .
During 2005–06 a review will be undertaken to assess the usage requirements for all existing buildings at the Jabiru site, and a plan established to remove excess buildings and rehabilitate the site with native vegetation.
During 2005–06 a review of all SSD houses will be completed and appropriate asbestos management plans will be in place.
Since 1978, SSD has been monitoring fish diversity and community structure in the billabongs on the lease and in Kakadu National Park. The pop-netting program began in 1994 and monitors the potential effects of uranium mining on the environment by comparing changes in abundance and diversity in potentially affected billabongs with those in unaffected water bodies.
eriss conducts an annual pop-netting program to monitor the fish and aquatic vegetation communities in the lowland billabongs of the ERA Ranger mine lease and Kakadu National Park. Nine shallow billabongs, of which four are potentially affected by mining activities, are monitored each year at the beginning of the dry season (May–October). Sampling occurs over a 3–4 week period.
eriss staff seining a pop net
Pop-nets are enclosures of fine mesh netting that are used to surround an area of vegetation from the surface of the billabong to the bottom. The pop-nets are set during the evening allowing fish communities disturbed by setting the trap to recolonise. The next morning the net is released by a trigger device attached to long ropes and it ‘pops’ to the surface trapping the fish inside. The vegetation is removed (by hand) sorted and weighed. The fish are then collected using a small seine net, sorted, counted and checked for abnormalities.
Fish is one of the main food sources consumed by the local indigenous people. Hands on involvement in fish collections and testing reassures local indigenous communities that the food resources being consumed are not harmful to them and their families. Analysis to date from pop-netting and from other studies has shown that there has been no impact on fish from uranium mining.