BATHURST Regional Council is now at the stage it was in the first week of November 2018 when there was an amber alert for toxic blue-green algae at Chifley Dam and council approved the opening of the aquatic playground.
As of late February there was another amber alert; the playground has been closed some weeks early.
As a former CSIRO Division of Water Resources communications officer, working five years with scientists in Griffith who identified and warned nationally of the dangers associated with algal toxins following the historic 1991 bloom over 1200 kilometres of the Darling River, I was uneasy and contacted mayor Graeme Hanger.
November 2018 had seen the end of an unseasonal winter (July-September) red alert bloom at Chifley, at a period in November when toxins could still be present - something that should not have been ignored.
Very soon after that we heard of blue-green closing dams and lakes and the spectacular fish kill on the Darling.
I was concerned and contacted the Associate Professor at Sydney University of Technology, Simon Mitrovic, who has conducted studies over 20 years, recently leading a team that has identified serious human illnesses associated with blooms in more than 70 per cent of samples taken across NSW rivers, lakes and dams - even ponds in the heart of Sydney.
I accessed, downloaded and forwarded research results from the UTS to members of Bathurst Regional Council.
There are signs at Chifley that warn that algae can cause itching and rashes, but Simon Mitrovic identified something he calls “BMAA” that is believed to be linked to Motor Neuron, maybe Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis and perhaps kidney disorders.
At CSIRO, before I moved to Bathurst in 1997, we were warning of blue-green algae in circumstances being near fatal to humans.
IN OTHER NEWS IN BATHURST:
In Bathurst RSL Fishing Club we worked with council to plan for the safe recreational use of Chifley. It did not include swimming or immersing for hours.
The RSL Club launched the Carp Blitz to help improve the water quality in the Upper Macquarie catchment.
In emails to council since November I provided the contact details for Associate Professor Simon Mitrovic, suggesting that he should be immediately recruited to conduct research at Chifley Dam as soon as there is an amber-red alert for toxic blue-green algae.
Research has also linked blue-green algae and Motor Neuron to fruitbat droppings. We have had a colony of these bats in Machattie Park - another story altogether.
Bathurst needs to know if the toxin at Chifley is the same BMAA that UTS has identified as a link, if not a trigger, for neurological ailments - as a matter of some urgency.
I have been an avid promoter of Chifley Dam where RSL Fishing Club had invested some thousands of dollars in restocking native fish with council and NSW Fisheries.
I am not an aquatic playground killjoy. There are guidelines that council has followed to allow recreational use at Chifley Dam.
Any person can access the UTS reports online. Just type in "toxic blue-green algal research reports".