Marny Bonner, from Australian Sea Bird Rescue, with a dead pelican she retrieved from Salty Lagoon at Evans Head.
Marny Bonner, from Australian Sea Bird Rescue, with a dead pelican she retrieved from Salty Lagoon at Evans Head.

Toxic sludge takes its toll on lagoon?s birds

By SAMANTHA TURNBULL

MARNY BONNER fought back tears yesterday as she emerged from the toxic sludge of Evans Head's Salty Lagoon, cradling a dead pelican in her arms.

The site of Thursday's catastrophic fish kill near Airforce Beach has become a deadly feeding ground for birdlife.

National Parks and Wildlife Service workers have buried many of the 25,000 dead mullet and bream found in the area, but the mangled eels and freshwater species left to rot are now being eaten by birds.

About 40 ducks, 50 seagulls and one pelican were found dead within hours of feasting on the toxic fish.

Ms Bonner said it was the most horrific scene she had witnessed in 13 years of working with Australian Seabird Rescue.

"I can't believe this is happening in Australia in 2005. This is the worst polluted site I've ever seen," she said.

"This was a natural wetland, but the sewage here has built up so much it's turned into black sludge. It's devastating."

The crew said they had their theories on how the disaster occurred, but it was up to the Richmond Valley Council and State Government to investigate.

"All I know is a lot of effluent has been dumped here," said Australian Seabird Rescue founder Lance Ferris. "We're just trying to save as many birds as we can."

The rescue effort will continue today.



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