Ipswich City Council worker Ross Murphy puts up a river closure sign.
Ipswich City Council worker Ross Murphy puts up a river closure sign. Claudia Baxter

Bacteria keeps Bremer closed

IPSWICH’S Bremer River will remain closed indefinitely as tests show E. coli bacteria levels are still high.

The closure was first announced on February 17 by the Ipswich City Council but since then there has not been enough improvement in bacteria levels to reopen the river.

Flood-damaged water treatment plants were blamed for the high levels of E. coli.

At the time of the river closure, Queensland Urban Utilities said 30 Ipswich sewage treatment plants were damaged in January’s floods and operating at “average dry-weather conditions”.

A further three – Bundamba, Goodna and Rosewood – were still more than a month away from being back in normal operation.

This week, Queensland Urban Utilities chief operating officer Robin Lewis said all sewage treatment plants were treating effluent to a secondary stage through manual operations.

“A total of 122 sewage pump stations were damaged in the wet weather event. Of these, 42 have been fully recovered and the remaining 80 are operating at average dry weather conditions,” Mr Lewis said.

Restoration to normal operations would take a further four to five weeks.

All impacted treatment plants now have disinfection processes in place.

The Brisbane River is also closed to all recreational activities until further notice.

There were initial fears some groups might have irrigated their grounds with the contaminated water from the Bremer River but Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said no one had done so.

“The only people who have irrigated from the river were a couple of golf courses and some schools, but the ones we have been in touch with to date have not been irrigating as they had lost their pumps in the flood anyway,” Cr Pisasale said.

Signs have been erected at council access points to the rivers warnings of the contamination.

The World Health Organisation said symptoms of E. coli-related diseases include abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, along with fever and vomiting.

Most patients recover within 10 days but in a small proportion of patients the infection may lead to life-threatening diseases.

The Bremer has a history of poor water health, with the lower reaches of the river having scored an F for fail in the Healthy Waterways report last year, for the third year running.

In September 2009, defence officials from RAAF Base Amberley admitted a creek which runs into the Bremer River had been contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.

Their tests found cadmium, nickel, mercury and chromium to be above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety levels.

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