A specialised clean-up operation is underway as part of the multi-agency response coordinated by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at Menindee in response to fish kills in the lower Darling-Baaka River.
The EOC was established at the direction of State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Emergency Management Peter Thurtell, to ensure fresh and clean water supply is maintained to the Menindee township and properties surrounding the Main Weir pool, as well as to coordinate the removal and disposal of as many of the fish as possible.
NSW Police Force Regional Emergency Operations Controller, Assistant Commissioner Brett Greentree is overseeing the coordination of the emergency response by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), WaterNSW and Central Darling Shire Council, with the support of various other agencies.
Following significant planning and assessment, efforts to remove as many of the dead fish from the water commenced today (Wednesday 22 March 2023), in the vicinity of the Menindee township.
A contractor from South Australia is now on the water and working with officers from Fire and Rescue NSW with specialised equipment to remove fish from the water. Once removed, the fish will be transported away from town for disposal as landfill.
From tomorrow (Thursday 23 March 2023), the clean-up operation will also include Fire and Rescue NSW deploying large rubber ‘booms’ in the river, which are 200m long, sink to a depth of 40cm and float on top of the water.
Assistant Commissioner Greentree said the clean-up efforts are expected to be bolstered in coming days.
“A second specialist contractor has been identified and is expected to join the operation as early as tomorrow, which I’m sure is great news for the community,” Assistant Commissioner Greentree said.
“This should expand the number of boats and crew on the water, and when added to the booms being used by Fire and Rescue NSW, will significantly increase the capacity in terms of the number of fish we will be able to remove and the speed in which we do it.
“Obviously, we will be required to close sections of the river to facilitate the work, so operators of boats and other watercraft should seek advice before heading out and otherwise obey directions from emergency and maritime services.
“Further, we plan to continue to keep the local community updated on our operational activities, particularly in relation to issues which directly impact on their health and well-being.”
Another community town hall will be held at midday on Friday (24 March 2023) to provide the community with the most up-to-date information on the operation, including water supply and clean-up efforts.
Local residents will also have the opportunity to engage with experts, which will also include representatives from NSW Health and Local Land Services.
These types of events can be distressing to members of the community, and anyone who requires health, welfare or other support can contact support services. A comprehensive list of services is online:
Ahead of the community meeting, Assistant Commissioner Greentree wanted to reiterate that there was no need for community concern about water supply, which is continuing to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
“The results of current testing by Essential Water have confirmed the quality of the water has not been impacted and it’s safe for customers to drink,” Assistant Commissioner Greentree said.
“There are multiple viable solutions to maintain water supply and increased monitoring and testing will ensure changeover is immediate if alternative supply is required.
“Residents in the Main Weir pool whose properties ordinarily rely on the river for water supply can access water carting for their domestic use by contacting Central Darling Shire Council.”
NSW and Commonwealth Government agencies are continuing to closely monitor conditions and taking actions to try to improve dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the Murray Darling Basin.
These actions have included adjusting the timing, size and location of releases from the Lakes into the lower Darling River and while readings indicate the DO levels have improved, the areas from Main Weir to Menindee Creek remain a major concern, and there is still a risk of more fish deaths.
Increased releases of higher quality water from Lake Pamamaroo began flowing to the lower Darling Baaka River in late February as soon as monitoring detected dissolved oxygen levels approaching those critical to fish health.
Further, environmental water continues to be released as part of efforts to improve water quality.
NSW DPI Fisheries staff are working to identify and relocate at-risk Murray Cod and Golden Perch and Silver Perch from the impacted areas of the river.
Members of the community are urged to report observations of struggling fish or deaths directly to DPI Fisheries on 1800 043 536.
For more information about fish kills, as well as recent reports of observations and causes, visit: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/habitat/threats/fish-kills
Information about suspected criminal activity or concerns in relation to community safety can be provided to Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.