Myall Lakes Pollution

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SpeakersCohen The Hon Ian

Page: 7750

    The Hon. I. COHEN [10.30 p.m.]: The blue green algal pollution of Myall Lakes has received media coverage in newspapers that have chosen to target the fact that certain National Park facilities have been polluting the lake. However, the size of the algal bloom and its intensity clearly show that other issues are at play. Serious floods have inundated the lakes and reduced the salinity level, after about 8½ inches of rain and the backing up of the lake waters. Other significant issues are that half a million chickens on farms upstream significantly impact on effluent running out of the area, chicken manure is spread on vast areas for pasture improvement for the dairy industry, significant rain has forced phosphorus and high nutrient materials into what is essentially a shallow lake prone to that type of pollution, clearing has been carried out for 15 kilometres of highway, and other problems have arisen due to inundation of acid sulfate soil.

    It is clear that the implications are serious for families on holidays, for children or whoever wants to use the lake. It is a big area with significant environmental problems such as dieback of seagrass beds in the lake off Myall shores, near old Legges Camp, and a significant breakdown of vegetation in several hundred acres of important fish breeding grounds. Professional fishermen meeting in the Bombah Broadwater are throwing away more than half their fish—mullet, bream, blackfish, flathead and whiting—due to ulcers on the fish. One box of bream has been condemned by the Newcastle Fish Markets for having an earthy smell, which is one of the indicators of toxic blue-green algae [BGA] pollution.

    The Department of Land and Water Conservation has stated that this is a result of the BGA—a species of Anabeena—contaminating the fish. BGA is toxic to fish in high concentrations. It concentrates in the liver of shellfish, oysters in particular, is poisonous to humans, and causes vomiting and diarrhoea if consumed. On 22 June the Department of Land and Water Conservation issued a media release which stated:
        The Blue-Green Algal Warning for Myall Lakes has been extended by the Manning/Karuah/Great Lakes Regional Algal Co-ordinating Committee to encompass all of the Myall Lakes. High numbers of potentially toxic blue-green algae have been observed in Myall Lake, Boolambayte Lake, Two Mile Lake and the Bombah Broadwater including the lower Myall River downstream to Little Brasswater.
    Officers have advised people to avoid swimming in the affected areas or undertaking recreational water sports involving direct contact with the water where algae is present. The officer said that wind often concentrates algae on the near-shore areas, and that that is where the algae will be most obvious. Blue green algae may cause severe stomach upsets, nausea and skin irritations in both people and animals. These potentially toxic effects are a hazard to human health. Clearly, serious consideration needs to be given to these issues. The problem is serious in the Myall Lakes National Park. Really, it is an indictment of government that a national park should be suffering like that.

    Proper assessment needs to be done by the Environment Protection Authority and Mid Coast Water to ensure that the Bulahdelah sewage treatment plant meets strict licence requirements. At the moment, the plant is using chemical dosing to reduce phosphorus levels in the effluent, but we need a decentralised system and better ways to get the effluent out of the systems that discharge into Myall Lakes. The dairy industry needs to be audited in that respect, and New South Wales Agriculture must implement best management practices to ensure that less effluent finds its way into our lakes. We need a study of nutrient cycling and behaviour in the estuary. There should be an audit of potential nutrient sources within the catchment, such as effluent from unsewered areas, watercraft and agricultural activities within the catchment. A community-based catchment plan is needed to tackle nutrient sources in the catchment. Clearly, we must have a serious look at this major area of pollution. [Time expired.]