BARRY Hart, one of Australia's leading water-quality scientists, will lead a panel of seven independent specialists studying data from the Fitzroy River.
The panel is due to issue a warts-and-all report on the river's condition and the impacts of mining discharges, agricultural run-off and other pollution in the catchment by the middle of March next year.
The experts have been appointed by the newly launched body Fitzroy Partnership for River Health, to collate and interpret information from 450 monitoring stations and reports from 26 partner organisations in one of the most comprehensive and detailed investigations into a river system ever conducted in Australia.
Their role will be to ensure that the science is rigorous and unbiased and then to provide advice on where to conduct further research.
Funding for the study has come from a wide variety of sources, including the State Government, Rockhampton Regional Council and CQUniversity as well as the resources conglomerates that own most of the 44 coal mines in the Fitzroy Basin.
The new body has been formed to renew public confidence in the region's drinking water after months of elevated salinity levels downstream and revelations that mines have again been pumping floodwater from pits into water courses.
The other members of the panel are Dr Eva Abal, the chief scientific officer at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation; Dr Leo Duivenvoorden of CQUniversity; Dr John Platten, principal scientist for DERM in CQ; Dr Britta Schaffelke, a senior research scientist specialising in water quality impacts on the Great Barrier Reef; Dr Sue Vink, an expert on mine discharge impacts on aquatic ecosystems; and Dr Roger Shaw, an independent consultant with expertise in landscape soil and water processes.