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Council rejects calls for water contamination -

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Council rejects calls for water contamination

The World Today - Wednesday, 9 April , 2008 12:50:00

Reporter: Matt Wordsworth

ASHLEY HALL: Noosa Council is rejecting calls for a warning sign to be placed on one of Australia's
most famous beaches despite tests revealing extremely high levels of a gastro intestinal bug there.

On five occasions in 12 months, Noosa's Main Beach has registered high levels of enterococci which
can cause stomach pain and diarrhoea.

The council blames a stormwater drain at one end of the beach but won't warn swimmers to stay away.

Matt Wordsworth has this report.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Each week during the swimming season, council staff wade into the surf and take a
reading for enterococci, an organism used as an indicator of water quality.

Australian guidelines dictate there shouldn't be more than 60 to 100 of these organisms per hundred
millilitres of water.

But results obtained under Freedom of Information show five readings in that range or above over a
12 month period. On one occasion it topped 300 - during the school holidays last January it hit

At that level, according to the guidelines, people aren't supposed to sail a boat on the water let
alone swim in it.

Each time it's been caused by rainfall. Water rushes down Noosa Hill, over animal faeces and
funnels it and the enterococci onto the beach via a stormwater drain, just 120 metres from the

Microbiologist Dr Helen Stratton says the council needs to do something about the drain site.

HELEN STRATTON: It's way above the ANZECC guidelines to allow people to be swimming in those
waters. I think the public should be warned about that and there should be signs after heavy rain,
please do not swim for at least 24 hours.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The council has already put up a warning sign at the stormwater outlet at nearby
Little Cove, responsible for another high reading in the test results.

And the council has taken out ads in a local newspaper warning people not to swim in the Noosa
River because heavy rain had caused similar problems there.

But Environmental Health manager Wayne Schafer says a sign on Main Beach isn't necessary.

WAYNE SCHAFER: The occasional instances where the levels are high don't seem to present any
long-term threat to swimmers so I wouldn't be too concerned about that.

MATT WORDSWORTH: But you've got one around the corner at Little Cove haven't you?

WAYNE SCHAFER: There is a drain there and the drain is an area where people have been congregating
and we have had consistently high levels in that area so that's why we put the sign there.

MATT WORDSWORTH: So there's a reading at Little Cove and you've got a sign there and there's four
readings at Noosa Beach but there's not going to be a sign there?

WAYNE SCHAFER: Not at this stage no. We don't believe a sign is warranted.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Is there any hesitation to put a sign on Noosa main beach given it is such a
tourist drawcard?

WAYNE SCHAFER: No Matt and we would and Noosa has always been up front with our community. If there
is a cause for concern but in this case there is no need for any concern.

ASHLEY HALL: Council spokesman Wayne Schafer ending that report from Matt Wordsworth.