Floodwater testing in regional Victoria indicate that levels of E.coli and other contaminants such as trace metals, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, phthalates, and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are generally below levels of concern, according to Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

EPA, VICSES and Natural Hazards Research Australia launched an Australia-first testing program to better understand the contamination risk posed by floodwaters. Early indications show E.coli levels , a key indicator of water health, varied greatly but were better than expected.

In addition, EPA has been testing samples provided by SES taken from 16 locations around the state for a range of other contaminants including Pesticides, PFAS, Phthalates ( used to make plastics soft and flexible), Petroleum hydrocarbons, and Trace elements including contaminants of concern like arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, manganese, zinc.

Testing locations were at Broken River, Shepparton, Murray River, Swan Hill, Little Murray, Swan Hill, Murray River, Echuca, Goulburn River, Shepparton, Goulburn, Echuca, Lake Nagambie, Campaspe River, Echuca, Campaspe River, Kyneton, Campaspe River, Rochester (upstream), Campaspe River, Rochester, Broken River, Shepparton, Coliban River, Eppalock, Snowy River at Bete Bolong, Snowy River at Orbost and Snowy River at Marlo.

Two sites on the Barwon River will also be included for testing of E.coli at Barwon Terrace rowing course, Geelong and the estuary mouth at Frank Ellis Reserve, Barwon Heads

“We found that detected levels for perfluoro-octanesulfonic acid (PFOS), are consistent to levels detected in agricultural sites in previous EPA studies,” said EPA Chief Environmental Scientist, Professor Mark Taylor. 

“Concentrations of pesticides were below human health and environmental guidelines. All volatile organic compounds were below the level of detection, and no exceedances of recreational water guidelines were detected for trace elements, such as copper, lead and zinc.

“Phthalates, which are used as plasticizers in various industrial commodities, were detected in five sites at concentrations below current guidelines.

“This is a unique program and one that will help agencies in other flood affected parts of the country to monitor and report on contamination issues in their flood waters.”

More information and the full results go to: https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/flood-impacted-rivers

Reviewed 16 November 2022