Clarence river runs sick

DEAD fish, brown sludge and animal faeces are just some of the things floating in the Clarence River that could be making people sick.

At least three Maclean rowers have developed serious infections after water quality in the river deteriorated, following heavy rain.

“We've had a number of rowers out of the water due to infections from the water,” Bernadette Ryan of the Lower Clarence Rowing Club said.

“One ended up with golden staph (Staphylococcus aureus) and he has had numerous operations in the past month or so.”

The rower's father, Andrew Skinner, said the golden staph infection was not from the river, but his son's original infection could have developed from poor water quality.

Mr Skinner said people with cuts or wounds could prevent infections by using antiseptic soap. It's a practice that has been adopted by the rowing club.

Ms Ryan said that at the end of each rowing session, the club uses hospital grade disinfectant on the handles of the oars and people's feet.

“No-one wants to see the kids getting sick,” she said.

Ms Ryan said the water quality was particularly bad in the slow-flowing waters of the South Arm where rowers trained.

“At the moment there's a slick running through the river,” Ms Ryan said.

“When we bring the boats out of the water they're brown, it's like a brown sludge and it smells.

“It comes and goes but at the moment it seems like it's staying dirty for a while.”

This comes at a time when the Clarence Valley Council (CVC) announced beaches in the area have received an excellent report card from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Tests done between October 2008 and January 2009 found six of 10 swimming locations in the Valley passed national guidelines for enterococci, the bacterial indicator used to assess swimming water quality.

Three sites that failed were in Grafton near Cochran Street, the Grafton Sailing Club area and near Prince Street.

Council environmental services co-ordinator Rodney Wright said high readings could usually be attributed to heavy rain and run-off but he admitted council was still unsure why the sailing club site showed regular high readings.

To warn swimmers of the consistent elevated results at the sailing club, the council has erected a permanent sign near the clubhouse.

Mr Wright said the council would continue to monitor the river to provide the community with information on water quality.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, fishermen reported black water running out of Swan Creek and found more than 80 dead fish.


HELP reduce run-off in the Valley. • Pick up dropping from dogs in your backyard and put them in the rubbish bin.

  •  Wash your car on the grass, not the street.
  •  Sweep your driveway, don't hose it.
  •  Take old oils to the recycling centre.

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