For our first meeting of 2017, 60 members and guests welcomed Associate Professor Stuart Khan from UNSW School of Civil & Environmental Engineering to the podium. Stuart informed us of the current plan to ‘Make Parramatta River Swimmable Again by 2025’ which has been entrusted to the Parramatta River Catchment Group – an amalgam of River Councils, Sydney Water, Dept of Planning and the EPA.
There are currently swimming baths and beaches along the river that had been used historically (and still are) but, being a working river with a legacy of highly polluting industries along its shores, the quality of the water is dubious. Water testing over the years has revealed many and varied toxins suspended in the water column and, more worryingly, present in high densities in the sediment. Among many dirty industries Union Carbide had a large factory producing chemicals used during the Vietnam War and the resultant dioxins have entered the river and accumulated in the food chain. It is recommended that fish caught west of the Harbour Bridge not to be eaten. Industries generally do not discharge into the river anymore and there are heavy fines for doing so. However, some factories now discharge into the sewer and pay Sydney Water via a licence for the privilege.
Treatment of effluent is carried out at the ocean-end of the sewage carriers and that can prove problematic during a rain event. Stormwater enters the sewer and during heavy rain the overburdened pipes release untreated effluent directly into the creeks and river. In conclusion, swimming in the Parramatta River may well be feasible BUT unless a massive upgrade of the sewerage system is implemented then the current discharges of pollutants into the catchment during rain events will regretfully render the river risky for regular recreational revival.
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Members were reminded that Oatley Swimming baths have a proud and long history, with the existence of the Oatley Swimming Club at Jewfish Bay Baths since 1927. The society will work to ensure that it remains safe in terms of water quality.
Laurie Derwent spoke at our 24 October 2016 meeting on the rise, fall and eventual demise of the oyster industry along the Georges River.
The Derwent Family were involved in the oyster industry for the best part of 100 years. Lauries spoke from his personal experience as an oyster farmer in his youth and over 35 years experience working for various fisheries and maritime agencies until his retirement in 2013. During his lifetime, Laurie has seen the river change from an ideal oyster-growing environment to a “disaster”.
He spoke of the rich history of the estuarine areas around the Georges River – home of the world’s best oyster: Saccostrea glomerata (Sydney Rock Oyster).
He spoke of its cultivation from the early days in 1880’s: when stone was cut, and laid around the estuary to capture spat; and the rack method where oysters were suspended above the mud to avoid the mud worm.
As the production and the demand for oysters increased, this sustainable industry supported many farmers for generations. Then the troubles began with E. coli infection from water pollution; TBT (antifouling paint) influence on shellfish; introduction of rogue Pacific oyster; and the death knell itself – QX in 1994. This parasite ruined the oyster industry in the Georges River and the livelihood of many local farming families.
The humble oyster spends its entire life protected by its sharp shell feeding on the nutrient provided by the healthy River. But as our city continues to grow unabated, and our sewerage and drainage infrastructure buckles, our precious river engorges on a toxic cocktail and the humble oyster is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
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Neverfail Bay Oyster Lease Remnants
Lime Kiln Bay Oyster Shell Bed
Oatley Park Tray Bed Cultivation
Pulling up Oyster Trays
On Sunday 6th March, 40 people registered at Jinna Reserve South Peakhurst for the OFF Clean-up activity. Numbers from the Society were boosted by a contingent from Mortdale Girl Guides and their parents, plus some individuals who had seen our notices around the suburb.
Some OFF members took their canoes out onto Lime Kiln Bay to get access to what was lurking in
the mangroves, the rest picked their way around the muddy foreshores of the bay on both the
Peakhurst and Oatley Park side of the inlet.
Total rubbish collected was 36 bags, nearly half of it plastic bottles; also 9 car tyres, PVC piping and metal objects. This was an outstanding result,although real success should be measures by the absence of any rubbish in our bushland and waterways. We thank all those who gave up their morning to contribute to this community event.
Report by Clean up Site Coordinator – Alan Fairley
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World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on 2 February. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971.
World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997. Since then government agencies, non-government organisations and community groups have celebrated World Wetlands Day by undertaking actions to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits and promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands. For more see Department of Environment
Our Stream Watch group were fortunate to have a on site visit from Professor Banati Leader of the ANSTO Plastics project.
The increased presence of certain degradable plastics, including biodegradable plastics, is a challenge for the recycling of plastics more generally since the various plastics can be difficult to sort. Contamination of the waste stream with similar appearing but non-recyclable material by many seen as the Achilles heel of recycling. A significant portion of plastic waste ends up in our oceans.
Professor Banati said the team’s observations were changing perceptions about how the increased degradability of a material, such as plastic, may help to reduce the litter problem but, if not properly managed, might cause a contamination problem in the future.
Recent research shows that this is problematic due to the chemicals contained within plastics, as well as the pollutants that plastic attract once they are in the marine environment. For more see Guardian Dec 2014
ANSTO contributes to this collaborative research effort by using nuclear technologies to measure minute quantities of material such as the contaminants potentially leaching or being absorbed by degrading plastic material. ANSTO has national and international collaborations current work is being undertaken with Monash University, UTAS and CSIRO.
In a new study, published Dec 2014 by the journal Royal Society Open Science, a British scientist reports the riddle of the “missing” plastic as solved: It sits in deep waters, broken down into tiny fibers and embedded in the sediment of the most remote places on Earth.
The discovery of microplastic in such remote marine habitats raises new questions about the potential for plastic debris to contaminate the food chain. Scientists have already documented that fish, birds, turtles, and other marine animals eat plastic. Thompson and his team found an even greater accumulation of plastic than previously suspected. The more plastic there is, he says, the more potential for toxicity to marine life.
Read more on the National Geographic article – Where has all the (Sea Trash) Plastic Gone