Rivers reopen after ‘catastrophic’ sewage leak

Savannah Meacham |

An environment department officer takes a sample at the Albert River on the Gold Coast.
An environment department officer takes a sample at the Albert River on the Gold Coast.

Two Gold Coast rivers have reopened for fishing after 450 million litres of sewage spilt into the waterway from an undetected broken pipe.

The effluent was dumped over three months into the Albert River at Yatala and the Logan River from a broken pipe in what has been dubbed the state’s worst ever leak.

More than a month after the spill was first reported, the Gold Coast City Council has reopened the river for commercial and recreational fishing.

“Test results from seafood caught at both the Albert and Logan Rivers and then analysed by Queensland Health following the sewage spill has confirmed no human health concerns,” the council said on Tuesday.

Crab and finfish samples were also found to be compliant with metal containment requirements.

Local prawn farms had been forced to stop their operations while the leak was contained and anyone who caught seafood in the river was urged not to consume it.

The leak occurred between January 12 and April 12, leaking up to five million litres a day.

The Department of Environment, Science and Innovation’s Brad Wirth said he had never seen a spill of that magnitude in Queensland’s history.

An independent investigation is underway with a report expected to be handed to the council by the end of June. 

“We remain committed to releasing the findings of the review,” the council said.

The department is also continuing its investigation into the incident with the possibility of the council being prosecuted over the “catastrophic failure”.

It said last month the probe would look at how quickly the council was notified of the health risk, their culpability in the management of the sewerage network and the extent of the environmental harm caused.

“The department will assess council’s sewerage network infrastructure maintenance and management program to determine whether council is adequately managing and maintaining its ageing assets,” the agency said.

It is expected to take some time for the investigation to be resolved.