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The most polluted swimming spots revealed


Almost half of Sydney’s popular swimming spots are expected to be polluted after a week of heavy rain.
Scientists says a wave of infection can be caused by bacteria being washed into beaches from stormwater and runoff.

After a wet week across Sydney, today 73 of 160 swimming spots across Sydney were forecast to be polluted.

Almost of half of Sydney's waterways are not safe to swim in after heavy rain.
Scientists have warned swimmers to avoid waterways three days after heavy rain. (9News)

Earth Watch Institute chief scientist Scott Wilson said studies had shown a correlation between swimmers getting sick and heavy rainfall events when tiny but harmful bacteria could be washed into waterways.

“It’s all microbial, it’s all microscopic, so you can’t really tell necessarily,” Dr Wilson said.

The accepted safe level of bacteria in waterways is up to 40 enterococci per 100ml which pose a risk of less than one per cent of swimmers falling ill.

After heavy rain, levels of more than 10,000 are often recorded in hotspots, meaning swimmers faced a significantly higher risk.

Tamarama Beach, one of the most dangerrous in NSW, is closed due to extreme currrents in Sydney. 19th February 2021 Photo: Janie Barrett
Almost half of Sydney’s popular swimming spots will be polluted after heavy rain. (Janie Barrett)

Some of Sydney’s most popular swimming spots have recorded eye-watering levels of pathogens, up to almost 40,000 per 100ml.

The highest levels recorded this year were at Tamarama and Bronte in the city’s eastern suburbs, with 39,000 and 30,000 enterococci per 100ml respectively.

Bronte was one of the most polluted beaches after the recent rain.
Bronte was one of the most polluted beaches after the recent rain. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Other popular swimming spots such as Callan Park and Cabarita Beach in Sydney Harbour faced of up to 13,000 enterococci per 100ml.

Foreshores and Dolls Point Baths in the city’s south and Dee Why and Bilgola Beach in the northern Beaches all recorded between 1300 and 2000 per 100ml.

“We tend to find that our estuarine harbour beaches tend to have more pollution than those on our open coast,” Dr Wilson said.

Bilgola Beach in the city's Northern Beaches also recorded high bacteria levels.
Bilgola Beach in the city’s Northern Beaches also recorded high bacteria levels. (Kate Geraghty)

All of the waterways are tested after heavy rain for levels of enterococci, which are measured to indicate whether pathogens are present.

“The warning usually is three days after rain, I wouldn’t be swimming before that,” Dr Wilson said.

February 1

Uluru drenched as record rainfall hits north-west Australia

Swimmers can check whether their local waterway is healthy to swim in or not on the Beach Watch website.

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