Swimmers enjoy a dip in the Blue Pools at Angourie, which are also a health risk.
Swimmers enjoy a dip in the Blue Pools at Angourie, which are also a health risk.

Water could make you sick

By EMMA CORNFORD

PARTS of the Clarence River are off-limits to swimmers, following tests showing high levels of pollution from faecal matter.

Pollution has been detected by Clarence Valley Council in tests after recent heavy rain put a surge in the river.

Council manager of sustainable environment Peter Birch said weekly testing in the Beachwatch program since November 1 had found that the river in Grafton near the end of Prince Street, Corcoran Park, the Grafton Sailing Club ? and the Ulmarra boat ramp ? had high levels of enterococci, the organism that the Environmental Protection Agency used to assess the health of river estuaries.

"It was particularly high after rainfall," Mr Birch said.

"I'd recommend as a general rule that people don't go swimming in those areas for at least two days after rainfall, or if the water looks particularly turbid or dirty."

He said people who did swim in those areas after rain risked contracting ear infections, gastric or diarrhoea.

But the news for water enthusiasts is not all bad.

Other areas that were tested as part of the program have returned good results, including near the Maclean jetty, despite it being downriver from the most highly contaminated sites.

"We tested on beaches at Minni Water, Whiting Beach, Iluka Bay, Kolora Lake as well as the Wooli estuary, north and south, and they have generally been good," Mr Birch said.

"So if it has been raining I'd recommend people to go to one of our beaches or the pool or to go and swim in a mate's pool."

Mr Birch attributed the high levels of faecal matter in the river to run-off from the city, agriculture and industry around the catchment.

"It's nothing unusual for an estuary around a centre the size of Grafton," he said.

"When you look at Wooli, the catchment returned quite good results because it's very undeveloped and there's no major centre around it ... but in Grafton you get the run-off from the streets and dust that settles and all of that kind of thing."

The highest reading was found in the river at the sailing club but according to Mr Birch it was a bit of a mystery as to why.

nMeanwhile, potentially toxic blue-green algae has been reported in the Blue Pools at Angourie.

Medium-to-high levels of the algae were found at the popular recreational spot in the past week by the regional algal co-ordinating committee.

RACC chairman and Department of Natural Resources regional director Des Schroder said contact with the affected water could result in skin rashes and eye and ear irritations.

Ingesting the water can lead to diarrhoea and long-term health problems. Asthma attacks can also be brought on by contact with blue-green algae.

"We also advise people that domestic pets should not be allowed to come in contact or drink from the Blue Pool," he said.



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