Concerns have been expressed in Menindee regarding the results of water sample tests analysed by the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) following a recent mass fish kill.
- Water samples were taken from six locations near Menindee
- It has taken nearly three weeks for the full results to come back
- Many locals are convinced pesticides were to blame for the fish kill
The water samples were taken from six locations on the Darling River between the outlet at the Menindee Main Weir and Weir 32 further downstream on March 21.
That same day a representative of the EPA who visited Menindee during the fish kill told residents at a community meeting the samples would be flown out that night for testing.
Following consultation from government bodies and members of the public, the samples were checked for several elements and the results were released late last week.
Barkindji woman and Menindee Local Aboriginal Land Council director Michelle Kelly said she would have preferred to see the results come back faster.
“If there was contaminants in the water, finding out two or three weeks later is a bit of a concern,” she said.
Although the samples were scanned for more than 600 pesticides, the EPA said none were detected.
But Ms Kelly said she was not convinced because the tests were done by a government organisation rather than an independent body.
“We need somebody who is independent of all the stakeholders to undertake the testing of the water so that we can be sure the water quality is safe,” she said.
“How do we trust people who have a vested interest in saying there’s nothing in the water system?
“Until we get an independent person coming in and saying that, I don’t think anybody is going to be satisfied.”
No baseline water testing
Nitrogen and phosphorous were found to be in high levels, although the EPA said this could be due to rotting fish.
However, local Graeme McCrabb said it was difficult for the community to trust in the results, especially without an idea of what the water was normally like.
“There’s no data prior to the fish kill, so we’ve got no baseline to compare it to and that [was] one of the key problems that the two reports back in 2018 and 2019 had,” Mr McCrabb said.
“So there’s still a lot of questions to be answered and, clearly, Water NSW have got a lot to answer for.
“The flooding of the town through January and then leading into this event with not having any proper [dissolved oxygen] testing and monitoring going on, and then the releases which were made, have compounded into where we are with the fish kills.”
Blue-green algae was also detected in all six samples, with an amber alert now in place advising residents not to drink untreated river water, although there are no restrictions on recreational use.
Ms Kelly said she was not aware of any reports of people becoming ill due to river water, but many were still hesitant to use it.
They are instead using bottled water, adding additional expenses to their households.
The ABC has contacted the EPA and DPI Fisheries for comment about the test results.