Dear Beagle Editor, Why is Mcleod’s Beach Surfside not closed? Well the quick answer to that is the guidelines say it should be closed, but council and the EPA are apparently refusing to comply with government guidelines? Or even testing requirements?
What we have, according to the guidelines and the preliminary results verbally given to Mr Sethi, is basically the worst case scenario. Extremely high test results over 20 times the maximum limit (after the system was flushed!)
Two extremely high test results (so not a one off incident)
Strong indicators that the faeces could be from a leak in the sewage system, and not from animals, and all this in the middle of a highly populated suburb on a beach which is popular for young families with small children (as it is inside the river mouth and protected from waves)
The rules say the EPA should have closed the beach and done 5 tests WITHIN one month after getting the first extremely high result (they didn’t) and as… “The guidelines advocate a preventative risk management approach” it has a simple step by step system to classify the level of risk, and then the guidelines instruct as to what actions should then be taken.
By these guidelines the beach should have been closed after the first test.
The guidelines even show (in table 1) what the level of health risk is for different test results!
Remember a maximin level of 40 (or greater) for ’enterococci’ triggers a ‘public health event’ and the actual test results showed 700 to 1000!
So the guides table worse case level of greater than 500 shows a greater than 10% risk of contracting gastrointestinal infection for swimmers in the surrounding area (even if just your skin comes in contact) and greater than a 3.9% chance of contracting the very nasty ’Acute febrile respiratory illness!
NOTE … People overlooking the creek and beach have observed many young children playing in the creek since the first high test results! and fishing in there as well. Even about 30 to 40 children from the school (about year 1 age) were brought down and were seen playing in this creek.
The local engineer also picked up that the EPA did not test for the correct and required indicator in the first result. The EPA were supposed to test for ‘enterococci’ but only showed ‘faecal coliforms’?
As it states in the guidelines…
“From 1 May 2009, Beachwatch will no longer monitor for faecal coliforms, but will use enterococci as the faecal indicator, as required by the new NHMRC guidelines and advocated by the World Health Organisation (NHMRC 2008, WHO 2003).”
Recently, according to Mr Sethi, the EPA officer admitted that he HAD tested for ‘enterococci’ But apparently took this out of the test results? as it is not shown in the officially released test results?
The EPA’s result sheet even stated that they had chosen instead to test for ‘faecal coliforms, Why? Was this to avoid having to declare a ‘Public Health Event’ and close the beach?
Then the EPA officer also ignored standard practice and handed over further testing to council, who claimed they did another test (which apparently has never been released?) saying the high levels had dropped back to normal.
But because of the fish deaths (and the persistent engineer) the EPA had to come back (with others) and re-test, again showing very high levels (despite the creek being flushed in the interim!)
The EPA officer also took a beach sample, but did this on an incoming tide, which apparently only tests uncontaminated sea water?
The engineer has also explained to me (and the EPA officer) how the flooding can cause a leak to open up in the sewer line, and why the pumping station would not detect this.
Apparently this pumping station is not a pressurised system because it is vented, so it cannot detect a loss of pressure from a leak.
You can see in the engineers video a milky white/ grey colour in the water coming from the direction of the pumping station, and then as he pans downstream the colour goes back to the normal clear tea stained creek water. This is an indicator of a possible sewage leak.
For the second time I rang councils environmental officer to ask if he intended to close the beach or put up warning signs.
I was promised a call back the next day by his people, but that didn’t happen, so I found his mobile number and got him.
He is still refusing to close the beach or even put up warning signs. He tried to give a few false excuses, such as that there had not been five tests yet (even though the guidelines say the beach should have been closed after the first high test) He also said “people don’t swim in the creek”? even though children do, and the guidelines say that even just this water contacting the skin is a high level health risk, and that surrounding beach swimming areas are also then a health risk area (with such high level results)
Every time I tried to question his excuses he just talked over me (apparently to prevent me from correcting him?) Then he hung up on me.
So we now have council staff and an EPA officer appearing to openly defy State requirements to protect public health. The EPA officer also left to go on holidays straight after revealing the second high test results to the engineer (they didn’t say for how long)
Perhaps its time for the community to start calling for the State Ministers intervention? Damien Rogers Moruya