A POISONOUS plume of acid ''comparable to car batteries'' is forming in the Manning River, near Taree in northern NSW, researchers from the University of NSW say.
Swimming in and drinking water has been temporarily banned in sections of the river, while fish and other aquatic life are expected to be largely wiped out. The NSW government said it was working with Taree council to ''manage and reduce'' the problem.
The plume is being caused by floodwaters draining from agricultural land that had been reclaimed from wetlands, concentrating sulphuric acid in rivers.
''It is extremely acidic, comparable to car batteries,'' said a senior research fellow, William Glamore, from the University of NSW. ''You wouldn't want to touch it and you certainly wouldn't want to drink it because you'd probably have to go to hospital. If you are sampling it, putting your hand in the water, by the end of the day your skin is peeling off.''
Tests carried out by the university's water research laboratory show alarming amounts of acid, with a pH level of two - compared with a normal level of seven - meaning the Manning River water is roughly as acidic as lemon juice.
In the wake of floods, similar plumes of acidic water are likely to be growing in many other rivers along the east coast, as water drains from acid sulphate soils, Dr Glamore said.
The waters in the Manning River were also stained red by iron particles from the soil that had been flooded.
''We weren't actually testing for the effects on fish, but you can see that the river is essentially devoid of life,'' Dr Glamore said. ''The iron levels and aluminium levels are so high that anything that can swim out of the way does, and the rest dies. We saw eels gasping for breath.''
The Manning River, and other major rivers in the region, such as the Richmond and Clarence rivers, are flanked by farmland reclaimed from wetlands.
Acid sulphate exists in a benign state in waterlogged wetlands, but when these are drained to be turned into pastures it is exposed to oxygen and becomes sulphuric acid.
''Acid sulphate soils are well known to be a problem in this area of the state,'' said a spokesman for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. ''In this case Greater Taree Council are leading the effort to tackle the issue in the Manning.''
''This area is known to be one of the worst spots in NSW for this problem … Some of the solutions include the purchase and rehabilitation of the lands that are the cause of the acid run-off.''
The government estimates that, as a direct result of inappropriate drainage and excavation for urban development, enough acid sulphate soil has been created to generate 50,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid a year. It cost the NSW fishing industry up to $23 million a year, the department said.
original info http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/acid-plume-poisons-river-after-floods-20130227-2f6bh.htmlCHECK OUT THE NEWS in the manning river times today!
River healthy despite reports
THERE have been stories in the national newspapers of late that are labelling the Manning River as poisonous, leading many to believe that whole species of fish will be wiped out and that touching the water will make your skin "peel off".
after reading the Sydney Morning Herald's findings about the contaminated Cattai Creek, we set out to investigate the area.
Upon arriving at Cattai Creek entrance at Stone's Oysters there was an obvious discolouration in the river outside their premises, however anyone that lives in the area knows this is quite normal following heavy rainfall.
We were surprised to see the family, who work on the river seven days a week, so upbeat, considering they're in contact with the 'poison' all day, everyday.
They kindly took us on a tour of the river and Cattai Creek, where we were on the lookout for signs of dead fish and any oxygen deprived eels, but all we found was a build up of foam, a few kilometres up the creek, where a drain was flowing into the water from the farming land.
By the time the water reaches the river, the colour changes significantly and dissipates completely.
The Stones have been working the Manning River for years and according to the knowledgeable family, the river is in the best shape they've ever seen it.
"Personally, I think the river is as healthy as it's ever been, particularly since I started working, about 16 years ago," says oyster farmer Matthew Stone.
Matthew believes that the best thing for the river has been opening the two entrances, at Harrington and Old Bar, allowing the water to filter out quicker.
"The only time we've ever seen the fish affected was about six years ago when we had consistent rain and the Old Bar entrance was closed. Since then, everything's been fine," he says.
Although the recent rainfall has meant that the river is closed for oyster farming, they were allowed a few days in between the worst of the weather to bring up some stock.
"If we'd have had this much rain two or three years ago, the condition of the river would have been so bad that we would have been out of business for up to three months. That doesn't happen anymore so that's a fair indication of the state of the river that we were still able to get in there in the middle of all of that," explains Matthew.
The Stones have leases in the Manning River and Myall Lakes and Matthew said the Manning had been producing better oysters of late.
See your ad here"We've hardly been affected by the rain, other than when Safe Food shuts us down because of the amount of rain that's fallen, but that's had nothing to do with the acid sulphate soils," says Matthew.
"I can remember when the creek would be just a blanket of white moving out the river. It's nothing like that anymore, and that's because of the work the council's been doing around there, sandbagging and putting in proper drains, you hardly even notice it."
The Times is pleased to report that photographer Carl Muxlow, who put his hand in the waters of Cattai Creek, still has all skin in tact.
Original info http://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/1334388/river-healthy-despite-reports/?cs=1467