Merimbula Lake sewer leak hampers oyster sales

Merimbula Lake and Back Lake.
Merimbula Lake and Back Lake.

Merimbula Lake oyster farmers have been forced to postpone sales due to a 21-day fishing closure.

NSW Food Authority forced the closure on October 23 due to sewage discharge that could have resulted in harvest area contamination in the top lake and entrance.

Bega Valley Shire Council’s water and sewer services team was informed of a potential sewer issue in the Target carpark near the corner of Market and Main streets about 2pm on Monday, October 23.

Black Bull Pastoral Company oyster farmer Brett Weingarth said it was fortunate the sewer leak did not occur in the lead up to Christmas.

“Most of my selling season is over. I was going to sell some oysters in the next couple of weeks, but I’ve postponed that sale closer to Christmas,” Mr Weingarth said.

“You never like to have a spill in the lake. It’s bad promotion for oysters in Merimbula and oysters more generally.”

Like most farmers at Merimbula Lake, Mr Weingarth received a text message to his phone to alert of him of the lake closure.

“When something happens like that council notifies oyster farmers and our Shellfish Quality Assurance Program coordinator and NSW Food Authority,” Mr Weingarth said.

“We can still tend our oysters and dry them, we just can’t sell them.

“I don’t think (the spill) is that bad, but you always err on the side of caution.”

Mandatory testing of the water on October 26 resulted in the lake being deemed safe for recreational activities.

Council said the initial inspection found a failed lining in the main sewer pipe that had potentially gone undetected for some time and was discharging into the stormwater system and subsequently into the lake.

Council’s acting director of transport and utilities, Ian Macfarlane, said it was “unfortunate” that members of the public had probably noticed the leak earlier in the day and not reported it.