Toxic algae outbreak warning

Under-dispute cabins will be moved to create the biggest caravan park west of the Blue Mountains.
Under-dispute cabins will be moved to create the biggest caravan park west of the Blue Mountains.

An outbreak of potentially toxic blue-green algae in Burrendong Dam has led authorities to warn water users about ingesting dam water or taking part in recreational activities at the giant water storage.

While there is no threat to Dubbo’s drinking water - which is mixed with bore water and treated - fishermen, jetskiers and pet owners have been urged to take care.

Routine monitoring by State Water and the NSW Office of Water has detected high levels of the potentially toxic algae, re-affirming the red level warning put in place several weeks ago.

Despite the outbreak, Dubbo City Council’s technical services director Stewart McLeod has maintained there is no drama with the city’s water supplies.

“Dubbo has no trouble at all treating for blue-green algae,” Mr McLeod said.

“Although it is rare for such algae to be present in the water at Dubbo, the standard treatment is dosing with Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC).

“We use PAC as a matter of course to remove other taste and odour-causing compounds, so whether or not it is present in the river, we are always treating the water in such a way as to remove it.”

The species of blue-green algae identified may cause gastroenteritis in humans if consumed and skin and eye irritations after contact.

Boiling the water does not rectify it.

Algal blooms can develop in a 24-hour period and can spread rapidly along the river.

Vicki Martin from the Central West Regional Algal Co-ordinating Committee said people shouldn’t avoid going to Burrendong but said recreational water users at the park should pay close attention to the water.

“If this algae comes in contact with the skin it can trigger skin and eye allergies which are uncomfortable,” she said.

“If people were to swallow the water and ingest algae then that is when the gastro symptoms would become apparent.

“People intending to go to the dam over the Christmas period should pay attention to a further alert we will release later in the week and if the water looks like it is affected by algae, stay away from it.

“And any fish that are caught in the dam should be thoroughly cleaned before being consumed.”

Ms Martin said downstream of the dam, in places like Dubbo, people need to pay careful attention to rivers.

She added that pets were also a concern and can just as easily be affected by algal blooms.

“Obviously with Burrendong spilling, the algae is going to flow downstream with the water so I would expect it will be in the Macquarie River at Dubbo at some stage,” she said.

“We would urge people to be cautious with their pets if they take them for walks along the river, particularly dogs which have a tendency to jump in the water.

“The main problem is when they do jump in, the algae gathers on their coat. They then lick it off and become sick.”

The NSW Office of Water is a separate entity to State Water and is responsible for the allocation of water once it has been released from the various dams, which are the controlled by State Water.