Confusion after Bondi Beach swimmers fall sick: 'Watch out'

·3-min read

Waverley Council has dismissed suggestion contaminated water caused a spate of illness among swimmers at Bondi Beach last week.

Rumours circled online that stormwater or sewage overspill had triggered multiple bouts of gastro however the council insists the water quality has been “very good”.

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if you or your kids were in the water at North Bondi on Friday watch out for vomiting and/or diarrhoea,” one woman wrote on popular Facebook page Bondi Local Loop.

“My kids and lots of others we know who were surfing and swimming have been really sick all weekend, so we reckon the common theme is being in the water around the same time. Good Luck!”

People on Bondi Beach on Australia Day. Source: AAP
Locals urged others to be careful after falling very ill following a trip to Bondi Beach on Friday. Source: AAP

NSW Health warned of gastro in childcare centres

While some people said they felt fine after their ocean dip, several others said they have also spent the last few days in the bathroom.

“We were there on Friday afternoon with a big group and most of the kids have been vomiting since last night,” another woman said.

“Yep, we are experiencing the same thing in our house. Fun days,” a third chimed in.

“My daughter was swimming in Friday and vomited all last night,” another mum wrote.

A handful of locals said a recent increase in gastro among children could be to blame, but others insisted the common connection was rain or sewerage run-off following a wild storm on Thursday.

NSW Health issued an alert on Sunday warning parents about an increase in viral gastro in state childcare centres.

Council says Bondi Beach not to blame

A spokesperson for Waverley Council told Yahoo News Australia that Sydney Water, which manages sewage overflows in the area, have confirmed they had “no works or alerts of sewage problems in the North Bondi area over the weekend”.

“The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage publishes a daily Beachwatch bulletin that uses rainfall data to predict the likelihood of bacterial contamination at Sydney's ocean beaches,” the spokesperson said.

“Beachwatch took a sample at Bondi Beach on February 18 and the quality of that water sample was very good [four stars]. There are also no alerts today for ocean beaches in Sydney, including Waverley's three beaches.

“As a general precaution, swimming at oceans beaches should be avoided for up to one day after heavy rainfall or for as long as stormwater is present.

“And when sewerage contamination may be present, Sydney Water is required to display signage.”

Left: a beach closed signed and polluted water sign, and right debris including leaves floating in ocean water.
Swimmers should keep an eye out for debris such as leaves and food wrappers floating in the ocean, as it's a sign of stormwater pollution. Source: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment/OEH

Stormwater a major cause of beach pollution

Stormwater is the major cause of beach water pollution, according to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

“In urban areas, natural small creeks and drainage lines have been replaced with networks of canals and pipes. These networks are called the stormwater system,” the department’s website reads.

“This system prevents flooding in urban areas and transports stormwater to larger creeks which then flow to our harbours and beaches.

“When rain falls, pollutants including litter, dog droppings, cigarette butts, leaf litter, oil and silt can enter the stormwater system and may be discharged directly onto the beach.”

The department says people should avoid swimming at least one day after heavy rainfall at ocean beaches and keep away from lagoons and drains.

Swimmers should also look out for debris such as leaves and food wrappers floating in the water, as it's a sign of stormwater pollution.

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