Don’t swim in the lake, group warns

BLUE-GREEN ALGAE RISK: Residents are advised not to swim in Lake Wyangan.
BLUE-GREEN ALGAE RISK: Residents are advised not to swim in Lake Wyangan.

GRIFFITH’S Wendy Simpkin has urged locals to avoid swimming in Lake Wyangan following the diagnosis of six more people with motor-neurone disease (MND) in the region.

Ms Simpkin, a member of the Motor Neurone Griffith and District Support Group, said she had watched with growing concern the rising number of Riverina residents diagnosed with the incurable and fatal disease. She believes it is connected to the region’s water and more specifically to blue-green algae.

“With six more people diagnosed in the last three months there has got to be some reason and the only thing we can put it down to is the water,” Ms Simpkin said.

“All the cases are sporadic, there has only been one hereditary case and we are surrounded here in Griffith by non-flowing water.”

With scientists discovering a strong link between blue-green algae and MND in January Ms Simpkin said council needed to consider closing the lake to fishing and sailing.

“All councils need to know that blue-green algae is a threat, it can kill you and why would you risk that, we need to warn people and they need to know,” she said.

“At the moment I think people are really blasé about the risk, you think it won’t happen to you but it can and I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.”

Griffith Mayor John Dal Broi said while he was also concerned with the high rates of MND in the area, he didn’t think the answer was to close the lake.

“I do know this is an issue and I have attended briefings with Dominic Rowe on the topic and there were some concerning statistics,” Cr Dal Broi said.

“For some reason our area and another centre in Adelaide have high numbers of MND, they have taken samples and are trying to find out if there are some similarities but it hasn't yet been confirmed there is a link there with the blue-green algae.”

“I know people are concerned but it would be irresponsible for me to say don’t use the lake – but people should keep it in the back of their mind, especially if they have young kids.” Cr Dal Broi said funding had been set aside by council for the issue. “Council takes regular samples of the lake and at this stage we know the northern lake is back on track, but in the southern lake the numbers are still off the scale,” he said.