Evans tops the clean beach list (just stay out of the river)
RICHMOND Valley Council's four beaches and swimming holes are all 100% suited for long summer dips, except for one which is teeming with fecal matter and stormwater pollution.
The latest NSW State of the Beaches report for the North Coast reveals the water at Airforce Beach, Main Beach and Shark Bay is almost always clean.
But it is a different story a few hundred metres back from Shark Bay at Evans River.
The waterway received a poor rating for beach suitability because of its high susceptibility to fecal pollution, particularly after rain.
"The site has been monitored since 2006. Elevated enterococci (dangerous fecal bacteria) results have been recorded in the last seven years due to flooding of the Evans River and significant rainfall events," the report stated.
In the Ballina Shire Council's footprint, six of the 10 swimming spots were rated good or very good - the same score as the past two years, but down from eight out of 10 in 2011-12.
All three lake sites were graded as poor: Lake Ainsworth South, Lake Ainsworth East and Lake Ainsworth West.
Researchers found water quality was mostly suitable for swimming during dry conditions but contamination was elevated after rain.
"Swimming should be avoided during and for up to three days following rainfall or if there are signs of stormwater pollution such as discoloured water or floating debris," the report said.
Ballina Shire Council already places warning signs at Lake Ainsworth when blue-green algae and sewage contamination are present.
A proposal to recycle wastewater will "significantly reduce the volume, while improving the quality, of discharges to the environment", the researchers found.
The western side of Shaws Bay - an inlet primarily used for swimming near the mouth of the Richmond River - also received a poor rating.
But there are still plenty of places to swim without fear of contamination.
Seven Mile Beach had the cleanest water of the lot and was graded very good, while Shelly Beach, Shaws Bay North, Shaws Bay East, the Serpentine and Lighthouse Beach were all rated good.
Across the state's 241 beaches and other swimming spots, researchers found 83% were suitable for swimming almost all of the time.
Ballina and Richmond Valley were the only North Coast regions included in this year's report.
RICHMOND VALLEY COUNCIL
- Airforce Beach
- Main Beach
- Shark Bay
- Evans River
BALLINA SHIRE COUNCIL
- Seven Mile Beach
- Lighthouse Beach
- The Serpentine
- Shaws Bay North
- Shaws Bay East
- Shelly Beach
- Shaws Bay West
- Lake Ainsworth East
- Lake Ainsworth South
- Lake Ainsworth West
Exposure to contaminated water can cause severe health risks including gastroenteritis with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches, nausea, headaches and fever.
Eye, ear, skin and upper respiratory tract infections can also be contracted when pathogenic bacteria, protozoans and viruses come in contact with small tears in the skin or ruptures of the delicate membranes in the ear or nose.