Wollongong Harbour safe for aquathon

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Australia Day Aquathon organisers have reassured participants that Wollongong Harbour will be perfectly safe for swimming on Sunday.

Event director Rob Battocchio admitted the sewage leak into the harbour “was not good timing,” but said efforts by Sydney Water, the Crown Lands division and Wollongong City Council had cleared the water of health risks.

“The contamination was isolated to one area. Water quality in the rest of the harbour is the same as North Beach – easily within safe swimming levels,” he said.

“With the leak now contained, there is no risk to swimmers.”

Sydney Water took samples from seven sites at Wollongong Harbour and North Wollongong Beach last Saturday, and found only the immediate area around the leak – near the Fishermen’s Co-op – showed high levels of contamination. Water quality at all other sites fell within acceptable levels.

Aquathon organiser Rob Battocchio in Wollongong Harbour with two competitors.

Public affairs manager for NSW Lands Catchments and Water, John McClymont, said work would continue into next week to repair the leak and stop further contamination.

“Work on the pipes at the co-op is under way and scheduled to be complete on Friday [today],” he said.

“There will be ongoing water testing over the next week or two.”

Mr McClymont said any further leaks would divert to a backup tanker on standby.

The southern section of the harbour directly by the co-op remained closed yesterday, while the northern end is open.

The aquathon, with three swim events in the harbour, will go ahead on Sunday. 

Mr Battocchio said he had received only three emails from participants worried about water quality and he assured them the event would be safe.

“We would have liked it addressed earlier, but authorities have done a good job clearing it up,” he said.

“I’m pleased participants have not over-reacted. People are aware of the situation and are closely monitoring it, but they just want news it is safe.”

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Online entries for the aquathon have been extended to 11am tomorrow, with last-minute entries accepted at the line from 6.30am.

“Water quality is within standard safe recreational and swimming levels,” Mr Battocchio said. “There’s nothing in the harbour that you can’t swim in it. It’s a green light from everyone.” 

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