Various environmental problems affect the entire world. These environmental problems in reality are the harmful aspects of the human activity on biophysical environment. The major current environmental problems include pollution, climate change, resource depletion, environmental degradation among others. It is disturbing to note that various human activities are responsible for the many environmental problems that we face throughout the world. For instance, there are various industrial activities that directly affect the environment. This report focuses on water pollution from the industrial activities in Sydney Harbor, New South Wales.
Water pollution is an environmental problem that occurs after water bodies such as rivers, lakes, groundwater, aquifers, and oceans are contaminated. Therefore, this problem occurs when pollutants are either indirectly or directly discharged into the water bodies without sufficient treatment to remove the harmful components. Water pollution affects organisms and plants living in the water bodies. In fact, the effect is damaging populations and individual species as well as natural biological communities (New South Wales 2003).
Sydney is the Australia’s well-known harbor city and capital of New South Wales. This city is the largest financial and corporate center in Australia and it is situated on south-east coast of the country as shown in the following map.
Fig1: Sydney NSW Australia map
The major industries in this city include tourism, property services, retail, and manufacturing. Water pollution in Sydney Harbor is greatly contributed by the manufacturing industries located in the area. The picture below shows a photo showing the Harbor where water is polluted by harmful industrial activities.
Fig2: Sydney Harbor
The area surrounding Sydney Harbor is largely urbanized meaning that it is an industrial area. The environmental problem is basically caused by the harmful industrial wastes by the multinational companies such as Union Carbide. These industries release toxic substances to the harbor causing water pollution hence this is the main reason why commercial fishing was barred in the Harbor (Australia and Adams 2012). Dioxin contamination of the Sydney Harbor results from a former industrial location at Rhodes adjacent to the Homebush Bay as shown in the following map.
Fig3: Source of dioxin contamination in Sydney Harbor
As portrayed in the above discussion, water pollution in Sydney Harbor has serious effects. It is worrying to note that this environmental problem has negative repercussions to both city residents and ocean creatures. Dioxins are simply a group of tenacious environmental pollutants, which accumulate in food chain, generally in animal’s fatty tissue (Farrugia and New South Wales 1999). They are very toxic and can cause both development and reproductive problems. In addition, they can damage human immune system, interfere with our hormones, and cause cancer. Moreover, water polluted by these toxic substances released by the surrounding industries negatively affects the aquatic creatures like fish. As already stated, water pollution in this area led to fish bans around Homebush Bay from 1989. All commercial fishing in Sydney Harbor was banned after tests showed elevated dioxin levels in crustaceans and fish in the harbor.
The potential cause of water pollution in Sydney Harbor as discussed is the highly toxic chemicals such as herbicides, timber preservatives, plastics, and pesticides that were manufactured by Union Carbide Australia Ltd (New South Wales 2002). This company owned the industrial site at Rhodes. Thus, the toxic chemicals released by the industry led to this environmental problem. Additionally, uncontrolled wastewater and stormwater release and overflow during reclamation into Homebush Bay and possible spills while unloading and loading ships also led to heavy contamination of this bay by dioxins and the other toxic chemicals (NSW Health 2006).
Regulating an area like the former Union Carbide factory is not an easy task. For that reason, government agencies possessing administrative and technical capability in addition to legal powers are the ones that should take the responsibility of regulating Sydney Harbor to prevent the water of this important natural site from continuous pollution (Baird and Rothwell 2011). I believe that in this Harbor there has been very little environmental regulation and investigation work conducted by the NSW Environment Protection Authority, local councils as well as other public authorities.
It is important for this authority and others to take fundamental actions that are effective so as to bring on the required environmental improvement in the Harbor. However, the local authorities and public authorities in Sydney believe that their power is little to take any action but this is actually not the case. Pollution in Sydney Harbor is regulated by the local authorities, NSW EPA, and other public authorities (New South Wales 2003). The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO ACT) is responsible for allocating the necessary responsibilities for prevention of pollution and control to these authorities. The area local council and public authorities should have the mandate of protecting the city. The overall environment protection of Sydney Harbor is undertaken by NSW EPA. This authority responsibilities include investigating, reporting, plus reporting and prosecuting the alleged noncompliance with the environment protection legislation as stipulated in section 7(2) (e) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.
The main sections of legislation that will be useful in dealing with water pollution at this Harbor include Contaminated Land Management Act of 1997, Environmentally hazardous Chemicals Act of 1985, Pesticides Act of 1999, and Protection of the Environment Operations Act of 1997 as prescribed by section 3(1) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act of 1991 (New South Wales 2002). In our daily lives, the importance of quality water cannot be underestimated. It is therefore crucial for all the concerned authorities in NSW to wake up and prevent Sydney Harbor from being polluted.
EPA should be the only authority with the powers to appoint the authorized officers whose responsibilities are to exercise power and the functions under Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 and Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 in dealing with the problem of water pollution at the Harbor (New South Wales 1998). The 2 tables below show the powers of the authorized officers who are appointed by EPA and who should inspect the industrial polluted sites.
Powers of the authorized officers appointed by EPA
Since it is a felony to pollute waters under section 120 of POEO Act, 1997, the first authority to deal with the problem of water pollution in Sydney Harbor and the rest of the country should be the NSW EPA. It should use complementary approaches to safeguard the affected waterways from the ongoing pollution. Thus, this authority should provide licenses to the operating industries. When exercising the licensing functions, the authority should consider the relevant matters contained in section 45 of POEO Act, 1997. After considering these matters, EPA will be in a position to determine whether and how to regulate water pollutants discharges in the Harbor (White 2007). After being issued environment protection licenses, it will actually be the responsibility of the polluting industries to understand the environmental impacts, which result from the pollutants they discharge in the Harbor and pollutants discharged to the waters from their premises.
The second appropriate regulatory authorities to deal with water pollution problem in this Harbor should be the Local councils as well as other local Authorities. These authorities are empowered by section 6(2) of POEO Act, 1997 to safeguard the waters in their areas. For that reason, these authorities should be at the forefront to protect water pollution at Disney Harbor. The local councils and EPA have the greater responsibility to deal with this problem according to the Act. According to Section 6(3) of the Act, any public authority might be an appropriate regulatory authority for any particular matter for which the Regulations declare. Additionally, the regulation has declared some public authorities to deal with pollution at their suitable areas (Wright and Resource NSW 2002).
The potential solutions to the water pollution problem at Sydney Harbor in NSW and that should be implemented under POEO Act, 1997 includes issue of penalties to those who engage in harmful activities which falls under section 3 of the Act, Environmental protection, and improvement of site management. Fines will be imposed to those who will be found polluting the water. For instance, the industries that will be found discharging their wastes into the water ways should be exorbitantly fined to decrease the environmental problem of water pollution in this area.
Secondly, all the premises including industries should be licensed. The advantage of this is that before they discharge their waste, the authorized officers will ensure that their discharge is not harmful to the environment (New South Wales 2002). Last but not least, the entire polluted area around the Harbor should be improved. The reason why this area should be improved is because it continues polluting the water in the Harbor.
Conclusion and Recommendations
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