Bioreactor project finishes second installation in Burdekin

News release | 22-Nov-2018

The Burdekin’s second ‘bed-style’ bioreactor that captures agricultural run-off has recently been installed on a cane farm at Airville, south of Townsville.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries project leader Carla Wegscheidl said the bioreactor is part of a new water quality improvement project to provide scientific evidence of the technology’s effectiveness in reducing nitrates entering waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program is investing in a range of different technologies and tools that could potentially improve Reef water quality,” Ms Wegscheidl said

“In some areas, bioreactors may be a practical solution to capture nitrates and stop them running off farms into the waterways.

“Until now, there has been very little research or practical application to examine how effective bioreactors might be in North Queensland’s tropical environment, so it’s important to test them out and find the conditions and soil types where they will work best.

“This bioreactor is 30 metres long, 1.2 metres wide and 0.8 metres deep and filled with woodchips. It is an inline, ‘bed-style’ bioreactor built within an existing drainage line to capture irrigation and rainfall run-off from the cane block upstream.”

Ms Wegscheidl said the bioreactor only took a few days to build and will start operating after the first irrigation, or rainfall event.

“Over the next two years we will collect water quality samples from within the bioreactor and monitor the levels of nitrate entering and leaving the bioreactor. This will allow us to determine the level of nitrates captured as water flows through the bioreactor.”

Burdekin canegrower Denis Pozzebon said he was very happy for the bioreactor to be installed on his cane farm.

“This bioreactor trial fits in with my other practices. I find it to be a passive method to capture nitrates and chemicals,” Mr Pozzebon said.

“I think bioreactors are a wonderful idea that can hopefully stop harmful run-off that goes out into the Reef. I was eager to install a bioreactor on my farm so I could see the results for myself.”

The second bioreactor to be built in north Queensland has been funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program. Four bioreactors have been built on farms in far north Queensland in the past four months to trial different approaches to improving water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef.

Media contact: Isabel Bryce , 3330 4518