Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Port Phillip Bay was full of poo
An alert was reported for unsafe swimming conditions in most of Port Phillip Bay on 11 February 2011. Beach reports rated 22 of 36 Port Phillip Bay beaches monitored by the Environment Protection Authority as poor and one, Werribee South, as unacceptable.
Swimming was not recommended at Rye, Dromana, Mornington, Frankston Coast Guard beach, Frankston Life Saving Club beach, Seaford, Carrum, Aspendale North, Mordialloc, Mentone, Beaumaris, Half Moon Bay, Sandringham, Hampton, Brighton, Elwood, St Kilda, Middle Park, Port Melbourne, Sandridge, Williamstown and Altona beaches.
A no swim advisory was issued for Werribee South.
At that time and since, I could find no specific warning on the Environment Protection Authority website.
The EPA maintains the EPA Beach Report website which also did not provide a specific warning about this health risk. To find out the condition of a particular beach you had to click on a specific location.
Given the high levels of dangerous E-coli bacteria throughout Port Phillip Bay, including areas such as Rye which are not normally affected in this way, it is unacceptable that this information is not more prominent. These conditions prevailed for several days.
Melbourne Water were and still are completely silent on this issue.
On 15 February 2011, it was revealed that the cause of these high E-coli bacteria levels throughout the bay were due to raw sewage being dumped into a series of rivers and creeks around Melbourne at the height of this month's floods after the city's sewage network failed to cope.
Affected waterways included the Yarra River, Maribyrnong River, Merri Creek, and Moonee Ponds Creek were subjected to the dumping as Melbourne Water sought to prevent sewage backing up into Melbourne homes. They all flow into Port Phillip Bay.
Drains in Elwood, Brighton and Hampton were also fouled, prompting accusations that authorities failed to properly warn people of the risks to human health.
It seems that neither Melbourne Water and the EPA are keeping us properly informed of health risks associated with sewage pollution.
Kitesurfers, swimmers and sailors beware!