Wetlands expert Geoff Sainty slams Lake Wyangan 'inaction' and offers his solution

One of Australia’s leading wetland experts says blue green algae in Lake Wyangan is at dangerous levels, and both Griffith City Council and Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) are ignoring a straight forward fix to its problems. 

Geoff Sainty says the current amber alert for Lake Wyangan is based on limited, selective samples; and daily sampling would reveal dangerously high levels of blue green algae in the lake water. 

"What you’ve got to realise is there's two separate lakes, the south and the north”. 

A Griffith City Council’s website has Lake Wyangan at “amber alert”, meaning recreational use is not restricted. However, a different MI website has had south Lake Wyangan at “red alert”, meaning the lake “may not be suitable for recreational use”. 

"Would you swim in the lake?… I've looked at the water with my microscope. Residue from bacteria is still present and at dangerous levels," Mr Sainty said. 

When asked what’s being done to combat blue green algae in the lake, Griffith City Council Environment & Health Coordinator Fiona deWit said, “the water quality is being monitored”.

She also said, “it is not possible to give a time frame on when the water is likely to return to Green status”. 

"But MI and council have been completely inactive on the lake... they are doing nothing" 

Mr Sainty said the solution is to build a treatment wetland, or a type of moat, around the eastern side of the north lake.

“The water could be held for two to three days. Plants in the treatment wetland would compete with bacteria to improve the water quality before it enters the lake”. 

"MI refuses to admit the water coming in to the lake is of poor quality." 

"I've seen it, it's a browny-green colour”.  

"The physical structures of a treatment wetlands could be built in three months... and done for less than half a million dollars". 

"If MI had any brains, they'd work with council to source water from the better quality north lake rather than the south lake". 

Mr Sainty said the south lake should never have been sourced for tap water last year.

“They said the water was shandied with higher quality water... but dilution is not a solution to pollution”. 

He said council should look to other parts of Australia, where effective treatment wetlands have been built to successfully improve water quality. 

"We have all the equipment and know how [to fix the problems] in Griffith".

"It's been done successfully in Shepparton. I can't for the life of me understand why they won't do it here". 

Mr Sainty said he was offered a position on the an MI/council committee looking into lake issues, but only on the proviso he would be muzzled and not talk to the media. He said he refuses to be silenced.

Murrumbidgee Irrigation were approached to comment on Mr Sanity’s remarks but declined. 

***

Griffith City Council did not respond directly to Mr Sainty’s remarks but provided the following comments on Lake Wyangan 

1) What is the current state of play with Lake Wyangan and blue green algae?

Currently Lake Wyangan is at Amber Alert and being tested as required. 

2) What is being done to address the issues? 

The water quality is being monitored.

3) Is there an estimated timeframe on when full recreational use of the lake might be restored? 

Recreational activities have not been restricted while on Amber Alert which is in accordance with the Lake Wyangan Management Plan. It is not possible to give a timeframe on when the water is likely to return to Green status.