Hazel has been doing the media rounds with the completion of the report outlining our work on metal contamination in marine sediments surrounding Port Pirie. As well as a radio interview on ABC 891 (interview starts at 1:16), there’s been articles on The Advertiser and ABC websites and on the local tv news. In summary, there’s a lot of metals (lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, etc.) in the sediments across Germein Bay, particularly in places close to the smelter like the Port Pirie River and First Creek. We’ve known this since the early 1980s, when CSIRO first did studies in the area. With substantial decreases in the fugitive metals released by the smelter since but another 40 years of smelter activity, we went back recently to measure what current metal levels are now. Perhaps not surprisingly given that metals don’t degrade, levels were often still well above ANZECC sediment quality guideline values, but at least the levels don’t seem to have gotten a whole lot worse – although in the river the lead levels are still about as high as recorded anywhere in the world. In some places we also found a decent amount of silver which, in combination with the lead and zinc, potentially adds up to a valuable resource which might be recovered if the top layers of sediments were removed from the river channel. At some point those sediments will need to be removed anyway because the port’s activities are starting to be hampered by the channel has filling in to less than its gazetted navigational depth but, to date, the contamination has meant spoil disposal (and so dredging) was always an expensive and intractable problem. So, thinking a little laterally and focussing on the contamination as a potentially resource, recovering the metals in the sediments (perhaps back through the smelter that lost them in the first place) might be a way to help pay for the safe processing of the most contaminated sediments, helping the environment by getting pollution levels down, and at the same time making the port more viable economically by enabling maintenance dredging. All we need now is a bit more funding to keep working on solutions and to start to develop some proof of concept trials.