RICHMOND Valley Council has increased its water treatment processes and issued a warning to recreational users, after blue-green algae was detected in the Richmond River near Jabour Weir this week.
Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said hot, dry conditions had contributed to the problem.
“The algal bloom is a serious concern, because Casino draws its water supply from the river,” Mr Macdonald said.
“We have been working closely with NSW Health to monitor the situation and ensure the town’s drinking water is safe.
“This includes introducing extra water treatment processes, such as higher dosing with powder activated carbon to help to remove the blue-green algae from the water and ensures it is safe to drink.
“While customers may notice some discolouration and a faint odour in the water, this is due to manganese, which is the major cause of discoloured water. In a separate process, we treat manganese with potassium permanganate in order to filter it out.
“The important thing is to address the algae issue and the potential health risk it can present.”
Mr Macdonald said following advice from NSW Health, Council had issued a serious warning to residents not to swim in the river or have other direct contact with the river water. It was also important to prevent pets from swimming in, or drinking, the untreated water.
“This is the highest level warning – red alert – so we need to take it seriously and listen to the advice from health experts,” he said.
Children and people with pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma, are most at risk, but everyone should avoid swimming in the river water, as contact with the algae can lead to skin, eye and ear irritations.
Dogs are also susceptible as they can ingest algae by licking their coats after swimming. People who fish in the river should be careful to thoroughly wash the fish they catch in clean, treated water.
Blue-green algae has also been known to cause serious illness in livestock, so owners should carefully check stock water supplies for signs of the algae and remove stock from waterways where surface scum is visible, or blue-green algae is suspected.
Mr Macdonald said Council had erected warning signs at a number of locations along the river and would continue to test the water regularly to monitor algae levels.
“We are hoping that predicted rain will help to ease the situation, but at the moment river levels are low, high temperatures are increasing algal growth and we need to take precautions,” he said.
“If there is any change in the situation, we will let the community know through local and social media updates.”
Meanwhile, Mr Macdonald said Council was also considering the need for water restrictions if river levels continued to drop.
“Hopefully, we will receive some rain soon,” he said. “But in the meantime Council is strongly encouraging residents to be mindful of their water usage and help reduce the strain on the town’s water supply.”