Water Quality-Is it Safe to Swim this Easter?
We have had a lot of rain in the last few weeks. In the big event ten days ago we had about 450ml and then on Monday night we had an amazing storm about 1am which added a further 50ml. The water is a dirty brown colour and there are logs, sticks and lots of flotsam. The Easter break is just a few days away and we still have dirty brown water coming down from the catchment. So is swimming in the water a safe activity?
I have previously recommended that people need to look at the NSW Food Authority website https://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/industry/shellfish/status as it gives a good indication of the water quality. Most, if not all of the Port is closed for oyster harvest. The reasons vary from low salinity at Tea Gardens, microbiological results of shellfish exceeding the maximum acceptable limit at Corrie Island, reported sewage discharge which may result in harvest area contamination at Lemon Tree Passage to septic tank discharge which may result in growing area contamination at Bundabah (including North Arm Cove) and Pindimar.
This does not mean that septics have deliberately been allowed to overflow. The problem is that the groundwater table is currently at surface level and septic systems, particularly the old fashioned types in low lying areas, cannot operate properly. They have the potential to continue to contaminate the water within the catchment and the Port until the groundwater table drops.
Another spot to look for safe swimming advice is Beachwatch. https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/beachapp/HunterBulletin.aspx?NoMobile. It does not cover Hawks Nest but it has results for areas such as Zenith Beach (near Shoal Bay) which would be similar.
Generally, ocean beaches will be cleaner than estuary beaches. A surf at Bennetts Beach, Hawks Nest this weekend may be a better idea than swimming within the Port. Generally, the closer you go to the ocean, the sooner the water quality will recover.