Environment

Beaches will take a while to clear fire debris, but Mother Nature is cleaning up

Genevieve Jacobs 19 March 2020
Beach debris sculptures

Beach debris sculptures have been made by locals on the Eurobodalla coast. Photo: Supplied.

The Eurobodalla region’s beaches took a battering during the fires, followed by heavy rain but are now well on their way to being clear, according to local authorities.

The region’s waterways drain towards coastal outlets and the heavy fire damage to forests means that much of the rubbish ended up at river mouths, or being washed onto beaches after 271,000 hectares – or 79 per cent of the shire — burned.

There have been additional recurring problems with water quality and some beaches, and particularly those close to river mouths, are still carrying fire debris. River mouth beaches near Tuross and Moruya as well as Mystery Bay are still affected by the debris to some degree, while most beaches around Narooma and Batemans Bay are now fairly clear.

The heavy rain that followed the fires was most welcome but compounded the debris problem, while a few beaches were also affected by sewer overflows. These were signposted and flagged for attention at the time and all beaches along the Eurobodalla coast were closed for a brief period during mid-February.

But Eurobodalla Shire Council says that many beaches are now clearing naturally and that on the whole allowing this process to take place is the best course of action particularly given the heavy burden on Council resources for general rubbish removal throughout the Shire.

Council’s manager of environmental services Deb Lenson said that both Council and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service continue to monitor the situation. But, she said, it was usually best to let nature take its own course rather than to intervene.

“It’s not environmentally or economically wise to physically clear debris from the beaches unless there is a safety risk,” Ms Lenson said.

“We have limited capacity for waste disposal and obviously the first priority is the bushfire clean-up around homes and towns.”

Given the extent of this summer’s bushfires, Ms Lenson said Council and state agencies were monitoring estuaries and beaches to see what the impact would be.

“We’ve never had anything like this before, so we don’t know how long it will take for the environment to fully recover,” she said.

“At the moment we are seeing our beaches recovering and looking forward to them returning to their usual pristine state.” Ms Lenson said, pointing out that the Eurobodalla coast stretches for 143 kilometres, so there are still plenty of safe spots to surf, swim or beach comb.

Council will continue to regularly test water quality as part of its usual monitoring programs but advises residents and visitors to avoid swimming after heavy rain as a matter of course.

Murky or discoloured water could pose a health risk while logs and other debris could prove dangerous to swimmers and watercraft.

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