Our beaches are great, government report says
THE NORTH Coast's oceanside beaches have once again scored 'good' to 'great' marks in the annual State of the Beaches report, but Richmond Valley has trumped Ballina and Byron Shire when it comes to river swimming.
The report, commissioned each year by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, grades all public beaches for water quality in each local government area on the NSW coast.
This year, Byron achieved a combined score of 91%, Ballina 60%, and Richmond Valley 100%.
It was the inclusion of new river beaches into the report which let down Ballina's total score, particularly those in Shaws Bay and parts of Lake Ainsworth.
Shaws Bay West and Shaws Bay North were both graded as poor, with "a number of potential faecal contamination sources, including stormwater and discharge from the Richmond River", and increased enterococci levels after rainfall. Shaws Bay East scored a 'good' overall rating. Lake Ainsworth West and East beaches also received a 'poor' rating.
Ballina's winning beach was Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head - rated very good - while Shelly and Lighthouse beaches were also rated 'good'.
Byron beach lovers can celebrate, as every single ocean beach from New Brighton to Broken Head was graced with a 'very good' rating.
But Simpsons Creek at Brunswick Heads was graded 'poor' - with enterococci levels often exceeding the safe swimming limit after only minor rainfall. The popular Torakina beach received a 'good' rating, as it can be susceptible to minor pollution from the Brunswick.
But it was Evans Head's four beaches which were the standout winners in the report, getting top marks - for the fourth year in a row.
STATE OF THE BEACHES 2012-13
"Despite heavy rainfall and flooding events over the 2012-2013 swimming season, beaches in the Byron Shire performed well."
The worst beach in the shire was listed as Simpson Creek at Brunswick Heads, which received a "poor" quality rating because it was "susceptible to faecal pollution with a number of potential faecal contamination sources".
2011-12: 91% 2010-11: 91% 2009-10: 80%
"It is recommended that swimming at estuarine beaches be avoided during and for up to three days following rainfall, or if there are signs of storm water pollution such as discoloured water or floating debris."
Under-performers included Lake Ainsworth's eastern and western shores and western and northern shores of Shaws Bay, which both received a "poor" quality rating.
At Lake Ainsworth, the "poor" raiting came because "the water quality is susceptible to faecal pollution, particularly after rainfall and occasionally during dry weather conditions, with potential faecal contamination from elsewhere within the lake". However, the southern beach (near the surf club) received a "good" rating.
At Shaws Bay, the report said the western and northern shores were "susceptible to faecal pollution with a number of potential faecal contamination sources including local stormwater runoff and discharge from the Richmond River". However, the report gave the eastern shore (between the barbecue area and the caravan park) a "good" rating.
2011-12: 83% 2010-11: 100% 2009-10: 83%
The map for Evans Head shows nothing but green dots, representing clean water. The poorest performer at Evans was the river itself, which still received a "good" ranking, because pollutants could be flushed down the river after 5mm of rain or more.
2011-12: 100% 2010-11: 100% 2009-10: 100%