Regional floodwater testing shows better than expected results

Regional floodwater testing shows better than expected results

09/11/2022, 1:46 PM

Indicative results from the first round of regional floodwater tests show a generally better than expected picture for contamination in most locations with only the water tested at Shepparton showing very high levels of the faecal bacterial indicator E. coli.

Water samples collected by the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) and tested by Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) show the presence of faecal matter in all waters but at generally low levels. The source of the contamination is not identifiable.

The Goulburn River at Shepparton tested E. coli at 2,000 Most Probable Number per 100 ml (MPN/100ml). The guideline for E. coli is around 550 MPN/100ml.

All other sites – Lake Nagambie, Campaspe River at Kyneton, Broken River at Benalla, Loddon River at Kerang, Campaspe River at Rochester, Coliban Pool at Lake Eppalock, were all well under the E. coli guideline number.

“These results are only indicative but show a similar picture to what we found in other floodwater tests at the Maribyrnong River with a better-than-expected outcome,” said EPA Chief Environmental Scientist, Professor Mark Taylor.

“VICSES collected samples at multiple flood locations, and we can see a general trend that the high flow of water is reducing contamination. But this is going to be variable, and we need to continue to treat all flood water as contaminated and avoid contact with it wherever possible.”

EPA and VICSES will continue the testing program for the next few weeks to provide communities with a greater understanding of flood water contamination issues.

Andrew Gissing, CEO Natural Hazards Research Australia added, "Our previous research tells us that one of the most dangerous things you can do during a flood is enter the floodwater. 

“This research in partnership with EPA and VICSES is essential to understand the broader harms associated with floodwater and will be shared nationally to inform communities and emergency services of the many dangers of entering floodwater. Partnerships like this between scientists and practitioners are vital to improve knowledge for the benefit of our communities.”

Quote attributable to VICSES Chief Officer, Operations, Tim Wiebusch:

“Thank you to our members, upon whom this joint effort between VICSES and the EPA relied. Their work has been vital to protecting flooded communities from serious illness.”

“It is gratifying to see the results of this survey, which reveals only one site contained floodwater capable of impacting on the health of the community.”

“However, the results from Shepparton illustrate why we say that floodwater should always be treated as contaminated and should never be entered.”

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