Two of Australia's large desalination projects are running into a similar obstacle to progress – bones.

The Sydney Desalination Project on Botany Bay was delayed in October 2007 with the discovery of human bones on the project site. Workers preparing the site for construction of the $1.1 billion plant contacted authorities when they discovered a human shin bone in the sand dunes.

A week later ribs and other smaller bones were dug up about 300 meters away. Days later a pelvis and foot bones - still wearing a sock – were found nearby.

Police were called in to investigate, including a forensic pathologist and an anthropologist. About hectare of the site was excavated while police used cadaver dogs to search for more remains but none were found.

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  • The initial hypothesis suggested they might be ancient aboriginal bones but carbon testing later determined they were far too recently buried – within 50 years. The remains have been sent to the U.S. for mitochondrial DNA testing.

    The bones found at the site for $3-billion desalination plant near Melbourne proved to be less mysterious but a much greater problem for the project. In November, officials were notified that bones, teeth and vertebrae of dinosaurs and ancient marine reptiles have been found in a rock shelf on the beach near the site for the plant.

    The bones are estimated to be 115 million years old and lay in the most likely path for the inflow and outfall pipes for the desalination plant.

    The dinosaur bones were first documented by scientists in 1994, but the Dept. of Sustainability and Environment was only alerted of their existence in December when the Melbourne Museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, Tom Rich, contacted them.

    The find could be of significant archeological importance if it can help link Australia's prehistoric inhabitants with those in the Antarctic.

    At least one local governmental official demanded a full environmental effects statement on the desalination plant in the wake of the find. The State of Victoria government said they will evaluate the situation before making a decision to proceed with an EES.