Fecal Pollution Taints Water at Melbourne’s Beaches After Storm

© ABC News: Iskhandar Razak A number of beaches have been closed across Melbourne.
SYDNEY, Australia — The annual beach pilgrimage during the height of summer in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is threatened by an unsettling phenomenon: shores where the tides are tainted with excrement.

The Environment Protection Authority in the state of Victoria said on Monday that heavy rains had caused fecal pollution to wash into Port Phillip from rivers, creeks and drains. It advised against swimming at 21 beaches because of poor water quality.

“It’s poo in all its luxurious forms that is causing the problem,” said Anthony Boxshall, the agency’s manager of applied sciences, noting that the waste was coming from people, dogs, horses, cows, birds and other animals.

Fecal pollution can cause serious health problems, including gastroenteritis.

Mr. Boxshall said much of the waste had been washed down the 150-mile Yarra River that runs through Melbourne into Port Phillip, affecting the city’s bayside beaches the most.

The agency, which takes regular water samples, rates beaches. A “good” rating means that the water is suitable for swimming. “Fair” means that rainfall has affected the water. “Poor” means people should avoid it.

Residents said that the pollution had deterred them from indulging in a favorite summer ritual.

“When the temperature gets above 86 Fahrenheit, Melbournians typically pack the family in the car with food and drink and spend the day at the beach,” said Sam Riley, who lives in the city. “I was going to take my two young boys to the beach myself over the summer, but now I’m concerned about whether the water is clean.”

Mr. Boxshall said any improvement in the beaches’ water quality was uncertain as long as the rain continued. The agency says it usually takes between 24 and 48 hours for the waters to clear after the rain stops.


Melbourne beach gastro risk amid Port Phillip Bay faeces contamination

Authorities are warning of high levels of faecal pollution at some of Melbourne's most popular beaches after recent flash flooding, sparking concerns about gastroenteritis.
EPA Victoria is forecasting poor water quality — indicating unsuitable conditions for swimming — at 21 of the 36 beaches it monitors in Port Phillip Bay.

The affected beaches span from Werribee South on Melbourne's south-western fringe to Frankston, about 40 kilometres south-east of the Melbourne CBD.

Dr Anthony Boxshall, the EPA's manager of applied sciences, said last week's heavy storms and other recent rainfall had washed waste into the bay from the Yarra River.

"We have indicators we look for which is an indicator of faecal contamination, which is a nice way of saying poo," he told ABC News 24.

"It's bird poo, horse poo, cow poo and people poo, and that's everything that washes in from the streets coming through the storm system."

For its forecasts, the EPA samples water for a bacteria known as enterococci.

A poor quality forecast suggests levels of 400 or more enterococci per 100 millilitres of water, representing between 5 and 10 per cent risk of illness.

During dryer periods, levels are generally under 40 organisms per 100ml — representing a risk of illness of less than 1 per cent.

Children, elderly most at risk of falling ill

Dr Boxshall said the swimmers or other beachgoers who ingested contaminated water were at risk of getting gastroenteritis and other illnesses.

"What we know from international research from the World Health Organisation … is that if you swim in that kind of water with these levels and ingest the water, you can get sick," he said.

"It's mainly gastro … for some people it can get serious, and that's why we put out these warnings." Children and the elderly were most at risk of falling ill from contaminated water.

Beaches on the Mornington Peninsula south of Frankston currently have a "good rating" and are still suitable for swimming.

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

Forecasts are available on the Yarra and Bay website and on signs at 28 Life Saving Victoria clubs around Port Phillip Bay.


The New Year for Australians and beachgoers stinks — literally.



According to a NY Times report, Melbourne beaches are polluted. Government officials issued alerts on Thursday when water analysis revealed evidence of fecal matter. The raw sewerage is not uncommon and often threatens rivers and coastal waters during inclement weather, especially with heavy rainfall totals.

Anthony Boxshall works with the Environment Protection Authority (or EPA) as the group’s manager of applied sciences. Waters are managed and owned by the Victoria government. Boxshall addressed reports about the polluted beaches in Melbourne. He even injected some comedy into the smelly matter plaguing the beaches.

“It’s poo in all its luxurious forms that is causing the problem.”

Boxshall said the source of the raw sewerage is from animals and humans. The heavy rains forced the fecal matter to the surface where it infiltrated creeks, drains, and rivers around Melbourne. Agency officials issued alerts and advised the public to avoid some 21 beaches over threats of poor water standards.

To put things in perspective, Melbourne is the country’s second-largest city and is a hotspot for families and individuals on vacation. Therefore, it’s a big deal when beaches are closed due to fecal pollution.

Boxshall said the source of the raw sewerage is from animals and humans. The heavy rains forced the fecal matter to the surface where it infiltrated creeks, drains and rivers around Melbourne. Agency officials issued alerts and advised the public to avoid some 21 beaches over threats of poor water standards.

As a practice, the EPA takes periodic samples to determine the chemistry and health of the water. Ratings of “good,” “fair,” and “poor” are assigned based on test results.

Good means it is safe to swim. Fair indicates that rainfall may or may not have affected the water. A poor rating means the public should not swim in or drink the water.

Sam Riley lives in Melbourne. Like many others, he was disappointed that the incident ruined the holiday. He weighed in on the water pollution.

“When the temperature gets above 86 Fahrenheit, Melbournians typically pack the family in the car with food and drink and spend the day at the beach. I was going to take my two young boys to the beach myself over the summer, but now I’m concerned about whether the water is clean.”
Not only does fecal matter give off a foul odor and is unsightly, the waste material is hazardous to your health. Typically, the organic matter harbors bacteria or the norovirus that leads to gastroenteritis. Some refer to the condition as the “stomach flu,” but it is not related to influenza, according to MedlinePlus. The biggest threat to a sufferer is dehydration.

“Symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, fever and chills. Most people recover with no treatment.”

To put things in perspective, Melbourne is the country’s second-largest city and is a hotspot for families and individuals on vacation. Therefore, it’s a big deal when beaches are closed due to fecal pollution.

Boxshall said the source of the raw sewerage is from animals and humans. The heavy rains forced the fecal matter to the surface where it infiltrated creeks, drains and rivers around Melbourne. Agency officials issued alerts and advised the public to avoid some 21 beaches over threats of poor water standards.

As a practice, the EPA takes periodic samples to determine the chemistry and health of the water. Ratings of “good,” “fair,” and “poor” are assigned based on test results.

Good means it is safe to swim. Fair indicates that rainfall may or may not have affected the water. A poor rating means the public should not swim in or drink the water.

Sam Riley lives in Melbourne. Like many others, he was disappointed that the incident ruined the holiday. He weighed in on the water pollution.

“When the temperature gets above 86 Fahrenheit, Melbournians typically pack the family in the car with food and drink and spend the day at the beach. I was going to take my two young boys to the beach myself over the summer, but now I’m concerned about whether the water is clean.”

Not only does fecal matter give off a foul odor and is unsightly, the waste material is hazardous to your health. Typically, the organic matter harbors bacteria or the norovirus that leads to gastroenteritis. Some refer to the condition as the “stomach flu,” but it is not related to influenza, according to MedlinePlus. The biggest threat to a sufferer is dehydration.

“Symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, fever and chills. Most people recover with no treatment.”

Luckily, on the first day the year, Mother Nature tossed the country a lifeline. As Business Insider wrote, the weather was “cold and blustery which prevented all but the ultra-adventurous beachcombers from getting out in the sand and surf.

“Yesterday, the mercury in our most livable city hit the lowest January maximum since 1996 – a bracing 17.8C. Which is fortunate, because it stopped all the people going to the beach and catching gastro. Environmental Protection Victoria’s website listed 21 of 36 beaches as ‘no swim’ because heavy rains have filled them up with poo.”
Stay tuned to developments and public alerts about Melbourne’s polluted beaches before entering the water by visiting the Yarra Bay’s website above.

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