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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Something stinks and it isn't dead fish

Dear Beagle Editor, I just wanted to detail the series of events regarding the recent Fish Kill at Surfside.

When the berm opened early on Fri Mar 17, I noticed council staff and the Bay Post taking pictures of the opening. Editors Note 24/4/2017 : previous articles that have made reference to the creek opening have stated that the witness, Mr Sethi, saw a photographer from the Bay Post - this is in fact NOT correct and the Beagle apologises to the Bay Post and to their journalist covering this story for taking that statement on trust - It is now known that the Bay Post journalist did not attend the opening for a full 24 hours after Mr Sethi claimed to have seen him on site - the photographer Mr Sethi saw is unknown. There have been inferences that the Bay Post were on site concurrently with Council staff and that is also FALSE. I also noticed a large fish kill (apparent in the photo in the Bay Post published at 11:00 am, Saturday 18 March, 2017 ). About 5 p.m. on Friday Mar 17th I wondered if any of the council staff had reported the fish kill to the EPA and Fisheries. I rang the EPA and found that no one had reported it so I reported it (even though it is the duty of Council, as a local authority, to report fish kills, especially if the kill is in proximity to one of its sewer pump stations). Council was first to attend was a Eurobodalla Shire Council environment officer who told me there's nothing to worry about because he could 'smell' that it wasn't sewage. I asked if he was going to test the water had he insisted that it wasn't necessary! He then stated that "sewage doesn't kill fish, de-oxygenated water kills fish"? At which point I went back home to ring the EPA and ask if they were going to test the water. When I got through to the Head of Queanbeyan Operations – South East Region he told me that the EPA had already met with Eurobodalla Shire Council's environment officer and were on their way back to Queenbeyan WITHOUT taking any water samples. I told the Head of Queanbeyan Operations – South East Region that was ridiculous and he sent someone all the way back down the following day to collect samples, which I was present for. On Thurs Mar 30, thirteen days later I met with EPA and Fisheries to discuss the results. I said to them that all I ever wanted was for someone independent of council to test the water and to then assure the community that the results showed the water was safe for children to swim in and it was safe for our oyster industry. They both assured me that the testing showed that they could give the 'all clear'. I said 'you're word is good enough for me' and didn't even look at the results. At this meeting I clearly explained that the creek had been thoroughly flushed during the Jun 2016 storms and stayed open and was again flushed by the Jan 13th,2017 King tides (i.e. the creek has only been closed for 1.5 months). This was confirmed to them by another local who attended. However, I have now studied the report further and have concerns that the counts found by their tests are in excess of what is allowable and do not warrant an "all clear" at all. Given that the one test they did do is way above safe limits, I fail to see why the beach has not been closed while further testing is carried out in accordance with their own regulations. I wish to share with readers the letter I received: Dear Viv, The EPA is the primary environmental regulator in the state and I would like to reassure you that the EPA is always very concerned about the health of the environment. The EPA is particularly concerned about the water quality in your area due to the high conservation value Batemans Marine Park and the multiple important community uses of the waterway including oyster growing and recreation. I understand that you were present when an EPA officer collected water samples last Saturday. The samples were immediately analysed by an independent, NATA (National Association of Testing Laboratories) accredited laboratory. Natural waters adjacent to urban development will nearly always contain some sort of bacteria following a storm event. It is for this reason that oyster growing areas are closed for harvesting following storm events. As a result of the recent rainfall in the Batemans Bay area, the Clyde River oyster growing area has been closed since the 4th of March. On this occasion, the EPA considers that the results are not indicative of a discharge from the sewage reticulation system for the following reasons: ‘Thermotolerant Faecal Coliforms’ can be used as faecal pollution indicators as this bacteria occurs in warm blooded animals. Although faecal pollution indicators were present in the water samples, the levels are many orders of magnitude less than the levels in a raw effluent discharge;Bacterial levels will be elevated in a waterway such as Timbara Creek following a storm event as it is closed off to the ocean for extended periods during which time urban stormwater runoff will elevate bacterial levels up to 20,000 colony forming units per 100 millilitres following a storm event. Faecal coliform levels in sewage will be in the millions or tens of millions; Nutrient indicators including phosphorus and ammonia were present in the water samples at very low levels. Water contaminated with sewage will be polluted with high levels of nutrients.; The EPA has reviewed the run time and effluent capacity level data for the sewage pumping station for the period from 13 March to 21 March which shows that the sewage pumping station did not overflow or exceed 35% of its capacity at any time during the period; Council collected water samples on 20 March 2017 and found that the bacterial indicators in the creek had returned to very low levels. The table below summarises the results of the EPA’s water samples that were collected on the 18 March 2017 and compares those results to the known quality of raw effluent in Batemans Bay.

I have also attached more detailed results of the water samples with a map.

As I have stated, the EPA has taken your complaint seriously. I would like to meet with you at the creek during a follow up inspection of the site tomorrow or a day that suits you. Feel free to give me a call/email to discuss or if you would like further clarification of the results Regards ####### Head of Queanbeyan Operations – South East Region So there you have it Beagle readers, just want to keep everyone informed and now you can discuss it amoung yourselves but I have concerns when I learn that the levels in this report should not give an "all clear". Viv Sethi

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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