Acid sulfate soils

Acid sulfate soils are soils that contain iron sulfides and are found in low-lying coastal areas below AHD (Australian Height Datum) 5.0 metres.

When soil containing iron sulfides is disturbed and exposed to air, the iron sulfides react with oxygen to produce sulphuric acid, making the soils very acid and toxic.

Effects of acid sulfate soils

Acid sulphate soils can result in major environmental, health and engineering impacts, affecting water quality, aquatic plants and animals and infrastructure.

Fish kills are the most obvious effect of acid sulfate soils. Where fish are not immediately killed, the corrosive nature of sulfuric acid increases their susceptibility to fungal infections, which can lead to diseases such as epizootic ulcerative syndrome (also known as 'red spot').

Acid sulfate soils present a major challenge to the development, management and use of coastal areas. The construction of marinas, golf courses, coastal lake developments and drainage.

Environmental impacts

The range of environmental impacts of acid sulfate soils includes:

  • Human health impacts from disturbed acid sulfate soils may include dermatitis from contact and eye irritation from dust
  • Effects on the ecology of wetlands through fish kills and impacted shallow freshwater and brackish aquifer systems
  • Economic loss through lowered crop productivity and impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries
  • Infrastructure damage as leachate can corrode concrete and steel infrastructure

Thinking of disturbing acid sulfate soils?

Prior to excavating or filling on land, refer to the MBRC Planning Scheme acid sulfate soils overlays and planning scheme policies.  You may need a development approval for your proposed works.