Monday, 10 July 2006 - 11:45 AM

Acid Sulfate Soils Management Guidelines - the Queensland, Australian Perspective.

Col R. Ahern1, Kristie M. Watling1, Steven Dobos2, Nikki Moore3, and Sue-Ellen Dear1. (1) Queensland Dept of Natural Resources and Mines, Block C, 80 Meiers Rd, Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia, (2) Dobos & Associates, 6 Pandian Crescent, Bellbowrie, Queensland, Australia, (3) Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 29 The Esplanade, Cotton Tree, Queensland, Australia

In Queensland, Australia, there are an estimated 2.3 million hectares of acid sulfate soils located along the coastline. Land uses commonly affected by these soils include urban development (e.g. canal estates, marinas, residential estates, feature lakes), road construction, agriculture, aquaculture, sand and gravel extraction, basement car parks, infrastructure services, golf courses and drainage works. Given that more than 85% of the population live in Queensland's coastal zone, sampling, assessment and management of acid sulfate soils has become an important issue for the development industry and regulatory authorities. Acid sulfate soil management strategies for a site must satisfy the requirements of local and state regulatory authorities, conservation groups, the general public, developers, consultants and industry. Management strategies need to be robust, transparent and effective to achieve acceptable environmental outcomes. All acid sulfate soil management strategies must be supported by appropriate site investigations and risk assessments, with the results from the investigation forming the basis for management decisions. It is a requirement in Queensland that all acid sulfate soil management plans be clearly written, well-documented, and effectively implemented at the specific site, with conditions requiring ongoing site monitoring after soil disturbance has occurred. A general management guideline for acid sulfate soils was developed by Ahern et al. (1998) as part of the New South Wales Acid Sulfate Soil Manual (Stone et al. 1998). However, due to substantial expansion of urban and canal developments in Queensland, a more detailed document incorporating the latest research and industry techniques was needed to give clear guidance for industry and regulators in support of Queensland legislation. The Soil Management Guidelines were developed using extensive consultation with researchers, industry, community, government and interstate representatives. This has resulted in widespread adherence and acceptance of the Guidelines by environmental consultants, developers and earthmovers disturbing acid sulfate soil. In order to ensure the Soil Management Guidelines were widely accepted and used by industry, it was decided that a thorough consultative process would be employed to develop the guidelines. This process was very effective at producing a widely recognised publication that documents both practical and best practice environmental management strategies for acid sulfate soils. The Soil Management Guidelines provide technical and procedural advice to avoid environmental harm and to assist in achieving best practice environmental management when disturbing acid sulfate soils. The Guidelines are risk-based and describe a number of ‘preferred' and ‘higher risk' strategies that can be used to manage acid sulfate soils. For each strategy, the Guidelines document environmental risk, performance criteria, verification testing, and management issues that need to be considered. The most preferred management strategy is avoidance. The management of acid sulfate soils is dealt with by eight management principles: (1.) The disturbance of acid sulfate soils should be avoided wherever possible. (2.) Where disturbance is unavoidable, preferred management strategies are minimisation of disturbance, neutralisation, hydraulic separation and strategic reburial. (3.) Works should be performed in accordance with best practice environmental management. (4.) The material being disturbed, the in situ soils and any contaminated waters must be considered and managed. (5.) Receiving waters are not to be used as a primary means of treatment of acid sulfate soils or contaminated waters. (6.) If the acid sulfate soils texture-based action criteria is reached or exceeded, management of the soil will be required. (7.) Storage of acid sulfate soils above the watertable with (or without) containment is not an acceptable long-term management strategy. (8.) The receiving environment, groundwater, surface water, management and planning strategies and the heterogeneity, geochemical and textural properties of the soils should be considered when formulating acid sulfate soil management strategies. The development of the Soil Management Guidelines is an excellent example of government cooperating with industry, and coming up with scientifically defendable, practical approaches to managing an important issue. There is now clear documentation of management techniques that have been shown to be effective at various sites in Queensland, and there is clear guidance on processes to be followed if alternative or higher risk management strategies are being proposed. This Guideline along with other technical guidelines has helped facilitate consistency in acid sulfate soils sampling, analysis, assessment and management statewide that has been adopted by other Australian states. The Soil Management Guidelines are freely available on the web at

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