by Amy Cheng
More than 2,000 residents living along the Cooks River have signed a petition demanding that the State Government stops the dumping of sewage into the waterway.
The sewage in the river is mostly raw, according to Gayle Adams, water quality co-ordinator for the Cooks River Valley Association.
“There are no sewage treatment plants in the Cooks River catchment, so any sewage that gets into the river is untreated,” Ms Adams says.
In 2010, the State Government tested the water quality in the river and deemed it unsafe to swim in due to high levels of bacterial contamination.
Levels of Escherichia coli (E.coli) are too high for safe swimming and boating.
Ms Adams says if people swam in the river today they could develop gastroenteritis or eye and ear infections. And the harmful effects of swimming in the river would prove most severe over a prolonged period of time.
As a volunteer for the Cooks River Valley Association, Ms Adams, who lives in the area, said she enjoys cycling along the river, and often brings friends with her.
“It’s sad to see a river degraded over many decades,” she says.
The petition was handed to the local Labor member, Linda Burney, and presented to Parliament recently. It is now awaiting a ministerial response.
Ms Burney describes the river as “probably the most polluted waterway in the country”. She sees it as an “important part of the electorate”, and has been actively involved in its restoration over the past 10 years.
Having lived close to the river from 1997 to 1998, she has seen enormous improvements over time. “What I love about the river is that it brings people together,” she says.
Local resident Antonella, who has lived in Campsie for 30 years, complains about the horrible smell in summer and says more attention should be paid to cleaning up the river.
“It’s not healthy,” she says.
The petition is the first by the Cooks River Valley Association. “We felt that 2,200 signatures is also 2,200 conversations about the river,” Gayle Adams says.