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Fishing for trouble

Wednesday, 30th December, 2015

By Erica Visser

A toxic algae warning was not enough to deter some people from fishing on the Darling River at Christmas, potentially putting themselves at risk of poisoning. 

Water advocate Karen Page said it was “shocking” that a number of residents and tourists still took to the popular pastime despite the issuing of a red alert for Weir 32 and Menindee areas earlier this month.

“Sitting here over the Christmas period on my verandah, the visitors and locals still going up and down the river fishing from their boats was worrying,” she said yesterday.

“I just can’t believe they’re still doing it. Unless it’s catch and release, there’s no way it’s safe.”

The state government had erected some signage at the site which warned that water consumption and recreational activities were banned. 

But Ms Page believed not enough had been done to highlight the potential dangers of blue-green algae, which had been linked to serious health effects and even motor neurone disease.

“I honestly believe the message is not getting across. There is some signs warning people not to swim or fish but it’s not all along the river.

“Campers would come here and the first thing they do is get water from the river and put the billy tea on. At the moment that can be life threatening - the moment you boil the water the number of toxins doubles.

“I’ve put reminders up on Facebook and people are telling visitors that you use the water at your own risk but there’s only so much I can do.”

Meanwhile, Ms Page said Menindee residents were ready to welcome the introduction of bore water, which they hoped would be an improvement on the current Copi Hollow supply.

The town was due to be placed on a groundwater supply last week however it was understood the date had been delayed due to testing.

“Because of the condition the water is in at the moment the locals are desperately wanting better quality water,” said Ms Page.  

Broken Hill was expected to be placed on a Lake Wetherell supply from early next month, with the salty water to be treated by the city’s newly-commissioned Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant.

However, Menindee’s own plant was not capable of treating the source, leading to concerns over water security in the event the permanent Menindee common bore was no longer viable.

“It’s a huge concern. I wanted assurance that it’s going to be reliable and if anything happens with that bore, will we have to revert back to trying to treat river water?” Ms Page said. 

“Any complications along the way would be hugely worrying.”

The Department of Primary Industries and Essential Water were contacted for comment yesterday.

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