By ANITA HULM
IF you are thinking of swimming or fishing in the Tweed's Rous River ? don't!
Tweed Shire Council has issued a warning for the public not to swim or fish in a six-kilometre stretch of the waterway after the release there of partially treated effluent.
Council has had to discharge effluent from the Murwillumbah sewage treatment plant after a temporary halt of 10 days.
The halt was a result of damage to the treatment processes at the plant caused by an unauthorised inflow of industrial trade waste.
Council believes it knows where the illegal waste came from and is now starting the difficult process of trying to prove the breach.
Heavy rains in the past few days forced council to consider releasing partially treated effluent into the river.
Acting Director of Engineering and Operations Patrick Knight said the recent storms had increased the inflow to the plant beyond the storage capacity of the site, just off Frances Street in west Murwillumbah.
The NSW Department of Health and NSW EPA have been notified and will help the council manage the incident.
An EPA spokesman said yesterday that the complete breakdown of the sewage-treatment process was thankfully not a common one.
Council staff are testing water from the Rous River and have found an elevation of levels of coliform near the point of discharge adjacent to the sewerage plant, but have said that levels are normal downstream at Kynnumboon Bridge.
As a precautionary measure, signs are being erected at the bridge.
Council says recreational use of the river ? including swimming, fishing and eating caught fish ? should be avoided between the bridge and Boat Harbour until further notice.
"The treatment process has now been revived and is soon expected to be operating at normal efficiency," Mr Knight said.
But partially treated effluent might continue being placed into the river for the next three to five days until the system is fully operational.
Mr Knight said expertise has been sought from Hunter Water in Newcastle to try and get the plant up and running as quickly as possible.