Fish kill divides experts


ENVIRONMENTALISTS say blaming the massive fish kill at Evans Head last week on natural causes was pathetic.

The Total Environment Centre's Fran Kelly said Salty Lagoon had for years been used as a cesspit for all the sewage from local settlements.

She said Richmond Valley Council and the State Government should take the blame for the 25,000 fish kill.

"You never see other lakes and lagoons killing all in their path when they open following heavy rain," she said.

But the council's general manager Brian Wilkinson yesterday reiterated that lakes and lagoon systems were subject to the kind of natural event that occurred last Thursday.

He said the sand barrier of Salty Lagoon had breached after a storm and the rapid outflow of water led to a dramatic water level drop. The water in the lagoon was 'turned' with the sediment-loaded waters of the lagoon, killing fish in the process.

"Water samples have been taken and although all test results have not yet been finalised there is no indication at this time that any abnormal operation of the Evans Head sewage treatment plant has contributed to the event," he said.

The council's director of works, Gary Murphy, said no raw sewage was pumped out of the plant on Thursday.

A lightning strike shut down pumps for just over an hour and the equivalent of about two domestic swimming pools of partially-treated effluent was pumped out, he said.

"It had not been ultraviolettreated but we only installed the UV treatment system this year. What was pumped out was exactely the same as what has been emitted for decades. And in the grand scheme of things, it was a very small amount released," he said.

In a bid to minimise discharges to Salty Lagoon, the council expected to have a new $10 million treatment plant built by the end of 2007.

Tenders will be called in March and designs were al- ready complete.

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