Australian beaches have a poo problem | world news | Hindustan Times
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Australian beaches have a poo problem

Australian authorities warned swimmers to avoid more than 20 beaches after torrential downpours washed faecal pollutants into the waters.

world Updated: Jan 05, 2017 15:29 IST
HT Correspondent
File photo of a  woman running from the water on a beach in Newcastle, Australia, in January 2015.
File photo of a woman running from the water on a beach in Newcastle, Australia, in January 2015. (REUTERS)

Australian authorities warned swimmers to avoid more than 20 beaches in or near Melbourne this week after torrential rains and flooding polluted waters with faecal matter.

Bacteria levels peaked on Monday, when heavy storms flushed faeces and other pollutants down the city’s waterways and into Port Phillip Bay, public broadcaster ABC reported.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) asked swimmers to avoid the beaches because of concerns about gastroenteritis. The EPA rated the beaches as having “poor” water quality after testing the levels of enterococci, a group of bacteria recognised as the best indicator for measuring faecal contamination.

After further tests, three beaches Port Melbourne, Mentone and Frankston remained closed on Thursday because of the “effects of pollution run-off continue to linger”, ABC reported.

Anthony Boxshall from the EPA said there were still some beaches in the “fair” category, while the vast majority – more than 20 beaches – was in the “good” category. A “poor” quality forecast means an illness risk of between 5% and 10%.

“We have indicators we look for…which is an indicator of faecal contamination, which is a really nice way of saying poo. It’s bird poo, it’s horse poo, it’s cow poo and it’s people poo,” he said.

And authorities are hoping that sunlight and wind will help get rid of the contamination.

Boxshall said there was little human intervention could do to alleviate pollution at the beaches, which was largely due to three weather elements, including a lack of rainfall. “It’s the rainfall – if we get more of it, that’s not a good thing,” he said.

“The sunlight – if we get more of it, that’s a good thing, and the wind – if we get a bit of that it kind of mixes it around a bit as well. So those elements of the environment will help, as long as the rain stays away.”

The EPA forecasts for water quality are based on weather, recent bacterial sampling results, pollution reports and 25 years of water quality history.