Clarence City Council is extremely concerned about deteriorating water quality levels at Howrah Beach and has ramped up investigations into the possible sources of contamination following the middle section being downgraded to ‘poor’, as part of the recent Derwent Estuary Program’s Water Quality Program Annual Report.

Swimming in that section of the beach is now not advised given recent monitoring of the water has shown high levels of bacteria which may pose a risk to health.

Advisory signage will be installed as soon as possible (map included below for visual indication of area) to indicate which section of Howrah Beach is affected.

The report also saw the east and west sections of the beach return a ‘fair’ rating – previously rated ‘good’ – however Little Howrah Beach is still classified as ‘good’.

Clarence City Council Mayor Alderman Doug Chipman said council was extremely concerned about the development and had been proactively looking into reasons for the declining water quality for some time now.

“This has been on our radar for a few years and getting to the source of the contamination is a top priority for council,” he said.

“We have already taken steps to extend the funding for our Howrah stormwater investigation projects for an additional 12 months, allowing for a more intensive testing program of the nearby stormwater catchments.

“We are also currently advertising a position for a full-time Stormwater Officer for that period to accelerate the investigations and get Howrah Beach back to an acceptable level as quickly as possible.

“On top of this, council has allocated $6.97 million towards stormwater upgrades as part of its 2021-22 capital works program.

“We will be working closely with the Derwent Estuary Program and TasWater on trying to identify what is contributing to the ‘poor’ result.

“Communicating with the public will be critical throughout this process, so public health advisory signage will be installed as soon as possible, and we will be providing regular updates as investigations continue.

“We know that part of the attraction of living in our city is the beautiful beaches on offer and we understand that this result will be disappointing for the community, we feel that way too.”

Council has engaged Water Quality Scientist Dr Christine Coughanowr (started the Derwent Estuary Program) to assist in developing and implementing a staged investigation into the potential sources of contamination.

Investigations will begin with the analysis of the recent and historical impacts of rainfall, tides, and wind events, and an examination of the potential contaminant sources including stormwater outfalls, sewage main leaks, groundwater contamination from the historic tip, birds, dogs, and in situ sources (e.g. contaminated sand).

This will be followed by targeted sampling of stormwater, monitoring of faecal bacteria in the sand, alternate source tracking methods (e.g. sterols) and possible shallow groundwater sampling.

Mayor Chipman said while council was working hard to get to the bottom of the poor water grading, it was important that everyone did their part in improving the overall quality of the Derwent River.

“The health of the Derwent is everyone’s responsibility and we urge all residents and visitors to the area to be mindful of what you are washing down the stormwater drain, picking up after your dog, not feeding ducks, geese and seagulls, and in general doing what you can to take care of our wonderful environment,” he said.

“The community can rest assured that we are doing everything in our control to return the middle of Howrah Beach to a safe water quality rating and restore confidence in one of our city’s central beaches.”

Council will be holding several community information sessions over the coming months.