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River pollution puzzles

By UTE SCHULENBERG

TWO mega faecal coliform readings taken four weeks apart from the Bellinger River at Sweedmans/Charlmont, east of Fernmount, have bureaucrats scratching their heads.

Adding to the mystery is that readings taken from the site at other times were within the normal range of results so far.

Water quality tests are being done between Bellingen and Repton to determine the origin and source of the contaminants, which caused the closure of the Bellinger River for oyster harvesting last April.

The tests are being overseen by a Premier's Working Group.

Chairman John Williams said the results obviously needed further investigation.

"And that is exactly what we are doing," Mr Williams said.

"But it is early days as far as identifying sources ? once we identify possible areas, then we will begin looking more deeply into possible causes for (high) readings in those areas." He said the results raised a whole suite of questions.

"Are they an aberration? Are they an ongoing problem? Is there a straightforward explanation? At this stage we simply don't know."

He said to understand what was really happening, it was important to have readings showing a trend.

"That is the only way we can understand what is happening with confidence, which is what the NSW Food Authority, industry and consumers want."

He said in spite of the surprising results upstream, results from the harvest areas at Repton had been within acceptable ranges over the summer months.



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