Residents demand further action after Lake Cathie fish kills

After considering all information so far available to it, the Lake Cathie Fish Kill Committee at its last meeting concluded that

q Lake Cathie has suffered a major environmental trauma and massive loss of marine life. (Local businesses depending on tourist visitors, the lake's recreational activities and the lake environment have all been adversely and tragically affected.);

q the development site at the western end of Fiona Cres was well known to Hastings Council as being in a high-risk acid sulphate area, identified by its own maps ;

q the Committee believes that there is acid sulphate on the development site (It is understood that jarosite is on the site and its presence alone would show that iron sulphides in the soil are likely to be oxidising and forming sulphuric acid.);

q there was (and still is) enormous potential for that acid sulphate to run off into the lake;

q Council admitted it did not (and continues not to) rigorously supervise acid sulphate run-off safeguards on the site. (Council keeps rationalising and making excuses that it is not obliged to do so, because the site has an old subdivision approval. Also, it should be noted that Council does not hold an EIS on the site.

q Although Council stated that it did regular monthly water tests in the lake, Council admitted that it did not do water tests in the lake for July and August, at a crucial time leading up to the fish kills in September;

q Council has provided the Committee with Council's only borehole test results done on the subdivision site. The tests were done four years ago, from only two samples taken at the time over the whole subdivision, to a maximum depth of one metre;

q Council has dragged its feet in its attempts to find the primary cause of the fish kills. (It took until 1 October before Council understood that the Birna virus identified by NSW Fisheries might not be the primary cause of the fish kills.);

q Council has not managed this issue competently. (Council's soothing assurances that there has been no acid sulphate run-off into the lake and that water quality in the lake is satisfactory are completely unconvincing in the light of evidence, which has so far emerged.

Therefore, the Committee is calling on the minister responsible, Mr Bob Debus, to instruct the Environmental Protection Authority to intervene.

As a matter of urgency, the EPA, an independent agency, must mount a thorough investigation to determine the amount and toxicity of any contaminants that exist on the site and if the developer has proper safeguards in place to shield the lake from run-off. The EPA must also investigate other development sites and works around the lake, which have recently been responsible for disturbing high-risk acid sulphate soils.

The Committee therefore is urging residents to send letters and emails to Mr Debus demanding that he instruct the EPA to intervene and including reasons why he should intervene. His address is The Hon. Bob Debus MP, Parliament House, Sydney, and email:

It is imperative that residents now take this urgent community action, so as to try and achieve an important step forward in the campaign to remedy the lake's problems.



The Fish Kill Committee met with Council officers and the developer's representatives, off Fiona Crescent Lake Cathie.

A drainage trench traverses the site.

Council did three pH water tests in the trench, which the Committee representatives requested. They were the only tests Council carried out.

The Committee representatives made observations and took one soil sample from the site, looking for jarosite.

Some worrying questions arise:

Where is the large amount of water in the trench coming from, seeing we're supposed to be in the middle of a dry spell?

Has the bottom of the trench reached the water table? If so, wouldn't that, in a high-risk acid sulphate soil area, ring alarm bells?

Seeing the Committee's photographs of the trench taken on 19 September show muddy yellowish water in the trench, why was the water unnaturally clear on 2 October? Doesn't that indicate acid present in the trench water on 2 October?

Don't the conditions prevailing on this site match conditions about which the EPA has issued warnings in regards to similar sites? ("Sulphuric acid enters estuarine systems as a result of inappropriate land management practices in areas of acid sulphate kills in many coastal NSW rivers occurred in the 1980s." ( EPA web site)?

How can NSW Fisheries officers state that they have found no fish suffering red spot in or around the lake, when local fishermen have?

How can Council assert that there has not been significant rainfall to cause acid run-off, when the Committee found the following rainfall figures for this area: 22 Aug – 22.0mm, 23 Aug – 8.5mm, 24 Aug – 4.5mm, 25 Aug – 3.5mm, 25 Aug- lake closed to the sea, 26 Aug – 4.0mm?

Issued by the Lake Cathie Fish Kill committee