“Low health risk” for Anglesea River users

January 5, 2022 BY

The Anglesea River is highly acidic, but is considered a "low health risk" by council. Photos: TIM LAMACRAFT

ANGLESEA River users are being reassured that “health risks due to chemical contaminants in the estuary have been assessed to be low,” and are “acceptable” for “the general public”.

The estuary has largely been devoid of fish since a mass die off event around August 2019, and continues to experience one of the longest recorded periods of high acidity and low PH.

But, Surf Coast Shire general manager of Environment and Development Ransce Salan is assuring the public health risks due to chemical exposure is considered “unlikely”.

The shire’s latest round of water quality testing, conducted by Senversa (Environmental Consultants) on January 9, 2020, assessed health standards for recreational water use.

“Concentrations of cobalt, manganese, nickel and thallium in surface water during an acid event exceeded the adopted health-based screening levels,” Mr Salan said.

“However, potentially unacceptable health risks due to exposure to these metals is considered unlikely to occur unless an individual swims regularly and for long periods during an acid event.

“An estuary user would need to engage in swimming (with face and head immersed) for more than 56 hours per year during an acid event before potentially unacceptable exposures would be estimated to occur.”

Anglesea Estuary Watch volunteer and member of the council run Anglesea River working group, Dick O’Hanlon, said water quality testing should be ongoing.

“I live on the river and walk it every day and haven’t seen a fish since August 2019.

“The river is definitely undergoing a change and we should be monitoring aluminium and other heavy metals because that’s what kills the fish and in a high concentration can be detrimental to human health.”

There have been a small number of recent reports that fish are being caught in the river, but Mr O’Hanlon suspects they would have entered from the ocean, enabled by artificial openings of the river mouth by council.

Mr Salan said artificial openings were unlikely to provide a net environmental benefit to the Anglesea estuary and were instead designed to prevent localised flooding.

The ongoing ill-health of the estuary has prompted the formation of the Friends of the Anglesea River, the group holding its inaugural meeting two weeks ago.

The central topic of discussion largely focused on why the water way is in such poor health and what might be done to restore it.


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