Queens Lake still a no-go

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is discouraging people from swimming, fishing and boaters on Queens Lake.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council’s acting director Tim Atherton said the council was made aware of the leaking pipe from Christmas Cove Caravan Park on Wednesday January 4.

“Council environmental experts responded immediately by isolating the leak, commencing on site water quality testing and issuing a Prevention Notice requiring the caravan park to undertake urgent repair works to the leaking sewer line,” he said.

“Council immediately informed the relevant state government agencies, and advised the community through media and social media channels.”

Mr Atherton said the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Environment Protection Authority and Ministry of Health have all been advised of the spill. He said the Department of Primary Industries had imposed a 21-day hold on harvesting in accordance with standard procedures and will await the results of further water testing.

The council is conducting ongoing testing of the area, more broadly in Queens Lake and associated waterways. The council is advising the community not to swim or fish in Queens Lake until further notice.

The Camden Haven Courier has sent questions on the lack of signage at local boat ramps warning of danger to the public to the council and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

A DPI spokesman said the department “is aware of local reports of a sewage spill in Queens Lake, Laurieton. Monitoring and management of this incident is a local government responsibility. 

“The NSW Food Authority has placed a closure on the harvest of shellfish from Queens Lake. 

“DPI Fisheries has not been advised of any recreational or commercial fishing implications.”

A man at the caravan park contacted the Camden Haven Courier via Facebook to talk about the spill but declined to comment on record. Another person at the caravan park alleged the problem of the pipe leaking sewage had been ongoing for several years. He refuted the council’s claim the pipe had been repaired.

Others have taken to social media to vent their frustrations over contamination of the lake:

Local oyster grower Jason Armstrong said the closure of the lake happens from time to time, impacting the harvest of shellfish. Oysters, as filter feeders, obtain food by straining nutrients from the water around them. During times of contamination, like the incident at Queens Lake or high rainfall which results in fresh and contaminated stormwater, estuaries are closed and harvesting ceases.

“These things happen. Any sort of pollution in the river impacts on our business,” Jason said.

“We operate under Safe Food and everything has got to be by the books. We have the option of harvesting from our sites in Googleys, away from Queens Lake.

“We filter them through our tanks for 36 hours and that's the safeguard we have.”

He said growers also conduct a series of their own tests on water quality and oyster meat to ensure the product is safe for consumers.