River in poor health: enviro students concerned about Campaspe

The plight of the Campaspe River has captured the attention of a group of year 11 environmental science students whose water sampling has raised concerns about the health of the waterway.
The Sacred Heart College students have been following the issue of Coliban Water’s releases of wastewater from the Kyneton Water Reclamation Plant to the river and undertook a project testing water health at three sites, including below the release point from the plant to the river.
The students found high levels of E. coli, both upstream and downstream from the release point, as well as a diminished presence of macroinvertebrates, indicating the river was in poor health even before wastewater entered it.
“There’s already issues upstream of the release site, but the releases are only adding to the problem we already have,” student Jade Gledhill said.
Dr David Sharley, principal scientist at Bio2lab, an environmental consultancy based at La Trobe University, reviewed the students’ finding and noted that the high E. coli levels were not unexpected throughout the study area given the range of faecal sources that could be contributing to faecal pollution in the local area.
He said the take-home message from the reports was that the Campaspe River around Kyneton was in relatively poor condition.
“It was good to see the students engaging in waterway assessments and taking a strong interest in their local environment,” Dr Sharley said.
“For the health of the river to improve it is important that pollution inputs to the river are reduced or wherever possible eliminated.
“It is only then you will start to see short to long-term improvement in the biological health of the river.”
Dr Sharley said it was also important to consider that pollutants tended to accumulate in bottom sediments.
“Given many of the bugs we find in the river use sediments to feed, it is extra important that we reduce pollution inputs to the river,” he said.
“We can see from the macroinvertebrate results that the water and sediment quality is leading to impoverished fauna within the local area.
“Limiting further inputs of poor water quality should be the number one priority for the Campaspe.”

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