Page 2426 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 June 2013

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The commissioner also found that the main sources of faecal pollution in the lake were urban run-off, wildlife, regrowth of bacteria already in the lake and possible sewerage leakages. Given the state of the lake and its functioning with the loads of pollutants present in it, the commissioner accepted the advice that the Queanbeyan sewage treatment plant output is not at this point a significant source of faecal pollution. Similarly, rural catchments were not of themselves ordinarily a source of excess nutrients or turbidity in the lake. However, the condition of inflows from these catchments needs to improve as during periods of high rainfall or storm events they do contribute to water quality issues in the lake.

The government believes that working with the community is the best way to address the issues in the territory that compound the water quality issues in our lakes. An initial action will be an education program addressing nutrient run-off in suburban areas, siltation from development sites and landscaping, and possible care of pets using public areas.

Following receipt of the report, the Chief Minister met with senior representatives of the NCA, Queanbeyan City Council, Palerang Council, Cooma-Monaro council and a range of ACT government directorates. The Chief Minister directed the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate to convene a cross-jurisdictional task force to develop an action plan to improve water quality in Lake Burley Griffin. The task force was directed to use the commissioner’s report as a basis for the development of the action plan.

Facilitated by a peer review by water quality experts, the task force developed an action plan that identified short, medium and long-term actions that can improve overall lake water quality, highlighting the benefits of each action; identified the contribution of participating jurisdictions and their responsibilities for undertaking the actions; and outlined a program of works to undertake the actions and budget constraints and opportunities for each of them.

The task force also consulted with key catchment and Landcare community organisations in the ACT and region whilst compiling the action plan, in recognition of the important role that the community and these organisations in particular play in promoting catchment and waterway health.

The task force reported to the Chief Minister in August last year and their action plan has, in turn, informed the government’s response to the commissioner’s report. The task force noted that the recommended actions had equal applicability to the other major urban lakes in Canberra—Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra.

Remedial actions can include agitation of lake waters to prevent stratification, reintroduction of water plants, interception of sediment and nutrient-rich run-off through renovated stormwater infrastructure, as well as targeted campaigns to alter individual landholder behaviour to avoid allowing leaves and other organic matter entering our waterways.

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