Terrigal faces dangerous pollution levels from human faeces

Lucy Thackray
Swellnet Dispatch

Terrigal Haven in full flight (Photo: Ben Matson)

An investigation has confirmed one of New South Wales' most popular beaches is flooded with "very dangerous" levels of human faeces every time it rains.

Although the State Government is investigating the pollution as an issue of "grave concern", Terrigal Beach will not be fixed before summer.

This year, the Central Coast Council has been forced to repeatedly close Terrigal Beach, the Haven and the Lagoon after rain events, due to a surge of bacteria in the water, detected as part of the Terrigal Catchment Audit.

Now, researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), have determined human faeces are infiltrating the water through old drainage infrastructure and illegal sewerage connections.

Terrigal Beach is closed after rain due to dangerously high bacteria levels, which a study has found it caused by human faeces being flushed into the ocean (Photo: Emma Simkin)

Data collected in June found that during wet conditions the sewage signature in the stormwater discharge grew by over 100 times — rising to a level that poses a very high risk to human health.

"After heavy rain events the bacteria level of human faeces is dramatically high in the Terrigal waterway, especially around the beach itself and the main pipe coming out coming out at the southern end of the beach," local State member, Adam Crouch said.

"It can put health at risk."

The presence of enterococci bacteria in the water can cause a range of illnesses, including gastroenteritis, flu-like illnesses, dermatisis, nose and throat infections and Urinary Tract Infections.

'Best possible outcome'

"The next step is to determine the source, because it's mainly human and many times higher than the safe limit," Mr Crouch said.

"Trying to track that down is a huge job, as you can imagine, testing single house's sewer and water pipes."

Mr Crouch said he had spoken to the local council and he said the NSW Government stood ready to work "hand in glove with them to make sure we deliver the best possible outcome as quickly as possible".

"There are a lot of older homes in Terrigal that were built many many years ago and there may be sewer systems that weren't hooked up correctly in the first place," he said.

"Maybe they were hooked up into the stormwater system rather than the sewer system and that could be where this effluent is coming from."

The Central Coast Council and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment are now working on determining the location of the illegal sewerage connection.

Locals have been disgusted by the extremely poor water quality and say fixing the problem needs to be a priority over other local projects.

"This is a critical issue and needs to be fixed," Terrigal local, Adam Plummer, said.

"Terrigal Beach is a jewel in the crown and populated by thousands of locals and visitors.

"This is a risk to everyone's health if not fixed"

The ageing sewer system and a number of illegal connections are thought to be the source of human faeces running into Terrigal Beach (Photo: Anthony Horwood)

Development a factor

Residents are concerned about the impacts on health, tourism and local businesses.

"If there is a public health safety risk entering our Beach, how is Terrigal going to keep attracting locals and visitors," Tina Rodley said.

Some residents are critical of the Government and council's focus on development.

"Rampant development in the main part of Terrigal is probably a contributing factor," local resident, Nicholas Turner, said.

"Terrigal beach has had the highest pollution count and lowest water quality on the Coast for around a decade.

"The Government should sort the water quality out before focusing on other developments, like the Terrigal beach walkway"

'No short-term problem'

The local council said it is treating the issue as a matter of urgency.

"In the network there are still some clay pipes, there's still some asbestos pipes, so we need to look at them and replace them," Council's Director of Environment and Planning, Scott Cox, said.

"We've identified a number of household illegal connections, we've put a number of houses on notice to correct that as well.

"Certainly it could have a negative impact and that's why we're working urgently to try and rectify the problem.

But the Council's Director of Tourism, Russell Mills, is confident the water woes will not impact on local businesses this summer.

"[Maybe it would] if people read headlines and they're reading snippets of what's on Google, but I think most people now having a lot of tools at their disposal to research their travel plan," he said.

"They would dig a bit deeper and follow the news and follow the updates about it.

"I don't think there's going to be a short-term problem, but more importantly I think the fact that there's an operational plan in place is going to help it in the long term."

//Lucy Thackray and Emma Simkin
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


wiggy_piratej's picture
wiggy_piratej's picture
wiggy_piratej Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 1:48pm

Just another problem for Central Coast Council to put in the to hard basket and then handball it to the state goverment then get passed back........us locals can suffer the shit literally

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 3:45pm

Coincidental, then, that the NSW Coastal Conference is being held there later this week. The local council could tap into those 250-odd coastal management professionals to explore a few options.

Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
Thegrowingtrend.com Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 4:08pm

Great article and something well worth being aware of.
Shelly beach (North Head ) also has this problem due to the fact that NSW government cut funds to Sydney water which means the treatment of our waste gets pumped straight out when it rains as opposed to scoop the top and sieve the bottom when operating normally.

The Trees along Manly have plenty of Dieback due to all the Chemicals.
Trees don’t lie like politicians can
How about developing infrastructure that actually drives positive change.

I hear More roads are good for the beaches too..

simonus's picture
simonus's picture
simonus Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 6:23pm

Similar story at Tamarama the last couple of months, I suspect the work they've started on the old Seidler block at the top of the gully has unleashed the turds. Theres gold in them there hills !

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 8:27pm

back in the day Bondi had the same problem.

seen's picture
seen's picture
seen Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 8:36pm

Paddling out, taking a few sets on the head. Going through the motions.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 8:50pm

How are we back here ?
The old ' tie the sewer into the stormwater ' trick.
I feel this is not a new problem, it's just being highlighted again
Old NSW horse and cart towns.
A least they are warning the beach users/ ocean enthusiasts.

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 9:44pm

In this day in age? .... unbelievable!!!

I mean really..

dpc's picture
dpc's picture
dpc Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 10:21pm

You have got to be kidding!
winnie bay (Avoca / Copa) over flows raw sewer into the ocean after every heavy rain because the sewer system cant handle it.
there ment to be seperate storm water and sewer.
same with bataeu (Shelley/ crack neck)
central coast council is building highrise building everywhere however hasnt done a major sewer up grade EVER.
all the local people are trying to get the governemet to do something however the gov
gives not one *#!%
our sewer was designed to acomadate 100,000 people in the 80,s
Adam crouch is a [email protected]#$ing kook
the local council and state gov surley no how to destroy a place
even when evryone is saying STOP
We need an old fashioned central coast politician beat down

dpc's picture
dpc's picture
dpc Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 10:37pm

Avoca lake has an alarm that goes of every time the sewer pump station cant handle the influx of people and raw sewer goes into the lake

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 3:38am

Ewwww! Turd alert.

uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy Sunday, 3 Nov 2019 at 11:19pm

Bloop bloop, and then a big brown shark came...

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 6:49am

Put development on hold and fix it. Assume there’ll be some unhappy people.... what about how the first thing mentioned is the loss of tourism $$$$$ when something like this comes up. Still amazes me.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 11:55am

Wow. Hows that picture of the grey (brown) water in the stormwater! That's intense. On my way now to investigate a sewage leak in Manly....

PKsswellnet's picture
PKsswellnet's picture
PKsswellnet Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 1:09pm

Yeah aussie politicians and councils will shift blame talk a lot and do nothing if it risks the flow of cash or limits development. While we like to be critical of other countries they do make shit happen. President of phillipines closed boracay beach one of their premier beach areas for a year so they could sort there shit out. Literally. No pain no gain

ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 1:39pm

Gee that Russell Mills bloke is right across it - no problem at all with people like that on the job.

Parallel universe

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 1:46pm

Maybe a job for Fecal Man - see him at 45:45

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 1:48pm

Meet a professional poo diver:

Peter12's picture
Peter12's picture
Peter12 Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 4:08pm

Thank God it doesn't rain anymore

Piers0's picture
Piers0's picture
Piers0 Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 5:18pm

Happens at every beach on the east coast when it rains heavily. It depends on the testing they are doing and how you advertise it but its mostly fecal count tests and you cant tell if its human, animal or otherwise. We have so called pristine creeks on the north coast that test the same every time, even though we know the sewer infrastructure in the area is new. That said, pipes in the ground, manholes etc move over the years. Storm water gets in costing us extra to process and a bit sewer gets out. Better than Bali. Like most science, needs to be read in context.

Melody Flanigan's picture
Melody Flanigan's picture
Melody Flanigan Tuesday, 5 Nov 2019 at 10:12am

I am so happy to see a balanced view and that someone can read!

mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner Monday, 4 Nov 2019 at 9:23pm

Shit article ayyyyyy

Melody Flanigan's picture
Melody Flanigan's picture
Melody Flanigan Tuesday, 5 Nov 2019 at 10:15am

If you give a s%!t about Terrigal, look at the audit website www.centralcoast.nsw.gov.au/terrigalwaterquality

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat Wednesday, 6 Nov 2019 at 10:52am

This is a age old problem. (Rich) people move to these coastal areas and to save money get their plumbers to connect the sewerage to the storm water system. No one notices until there's a lot of fec going into the system. Examples; Tamarama (as far back as the 70's, Rosa Gully (Dover Heights), Dudley Bluff (fairly recently). I sure there's hundreds of others. Usually baby boomers, as usual.

syril500's picture
syril500's picture
syril500 Wednesday, 6 Nov 2019 at 8:07pm

I'm calling bullshit on that one. As if a licensed plumber would risk his name and licence on hooking up sewer to the stormwater because their client asked. No way.

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat Monday, 11 Nov 2019 at 1:43pm

No name to risk, Cash in hand. And it has already happened. Look up Rosa Gully. End of story. Seriously, have you actually dealt with tradespeople? I had a licensed electrician put lamp wire in my walls. Licensed insulating installers do half a job. I've had plumbers use second hand pipes and had to get them back 3 times to fix leaks that were worse than to begin with. You must be a trusting soul - a bit of advice though; even politicians lie and they are our elected representatives.

syril500's picture
syril500's picture
syril500 Monday, 11 Nov 2019 at 6:17pm

Ahh yes. My job involves managing all trades each working day. Seems to me you better do your homework next time you hire a tradesman. Second hand pipes and lamp wire from licensed plumbers and sparkys. Sounds like a handyman job to me. Good luck with your next building project is the only advice I can offer you.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019 at 1:55am

Animal & Human faeces about the main drain & Town wish to clean up all pollution.

The Bay is full of o/n boats that need to dump dodgy loads.

Google Earth (Just one freeze frame) sees 3 Dogs crossing above problem drain?
Dogs seem to use Rock Pool Circuit beneath Esplanade for outta sight poop'n'bath.

Photo of Main Beach SLSC
1) Open bins along the beach both drain & overflow toxic soup each rainstorm.
This open bins drain from the Haven & back to The Lagoon. (Not Healthy!)
2) No drainage pits beneath "Petri Dish beach showers (Nice slip'n'slide algae!)
There are similar algal trails at Showers book ending both problem drains.
3) SLSC roadside air/con slick runs thru central plaza down the stairs onto beach.
See : [Google Earth Pro] to follow this Postcard air/con trail.

Shows that Local Council has a long way to go to clean up the beach...
tbb is not picking on Terrigal...just first impressions of the town to assist in the matter
Individually not a big deal but when everyone is dumping on the beach ... SOS

Not saying Gold Coast does much right but in relation to this set-up?
GC got rid of Beach Bins (Health Hazard) (Cost a fortune for this beach pick up!)
Ban Dogs all together from WSR walkway (Kirra to Snapper)
All new GC Shower bases act as drains so that run off nourishes the Dunes.
Our Bums Bay is slowly being sold off to Yacht Club...(Can't recommend that!)
Fair to say the dodgy air-con runoff is similar to any Goldie SLSC at any time.

Terrigal recent Sewage upgrades

2019 sewage issues
Jan: [ No Swimming Wamberal Lagoon] Broken Sewer Main
April $6m Terrigal Boardwalk -7 Drains green Gateway is green alright.
April: https://www.facebook.com/abccentralcoast/videos/sewage-water-pouring-int...
May: Boardwalk divides community
June: [BEACH CLOSED] Terrigal + Haven + Lagoon
July: Sewage seeps into Terrigal Beach
Sept [Beaches open]
Town Joke: "The boardwalk is going to give us a better view of our crap!"
Sept Audit (Seven Drains) > Pool
Nov' (Closure) see this page...

2019/20 $10,000 Renew Pump Station above 7 drains

Friends of Terrigal Haven