Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) encourages all dog owners to clean up after their dogs this summer, or risk swimming in contaminated rivers and beaches.

Dog droppings are still one of the most common sources of beach water contamination around Port Phillip Bay, according to EPA’s water tests.

EPA Chief Environmental Scientist Dr Andrea Hinwood said that testing of the water samples from Port Phillip Bay confirmed contamination from animal droppings.

“Whatever washes off the streets and into the stormwater drain in a rain-storm will likely end up in the bay, and that includes what some dogs and their owners leave behind,” she said.

“Animal droppings (faeces) in particular can introduce disease-causing microorganisms like bacteria and viruses into the water, and make some swimmers sick.

“Stomach upsets and skin irritation are just a couple of the complaints that can be caused by exposure to the microorganisms in animal droppings.

EPA monitors water quality at 36 beaches around the bay and four swimming spots along the Yarra, from the beginning of December to mid-March.

EPA’s Yarra and Bay website provides water quality forecasts that indicate Fair or Poor quality for the following day, giving swimmers valuable information so they can decide whether or not to swim on a certain day.

“We advise people to avoid swimming near stormwater or river outlets for 24 to 48 hours after heavy rain, because that’s when animal droppings and other contaminants are washed into the bay from beaches and streets.

“Everyone with a four-legged friend can do their bit to keep our swimming spots healthy by being prepared with bags when going for walks,” Dr Hinwood said.

Other common contaminants in beach water include; litter, plastics, cigarette butts and detergents, all of which can be avoided through proper disposal.

You can check EPA’s forecasts for water quality at Melbourne’s favourite swimming spots by visiting the Yarra and Bay website, at www.yarraandbay.vic.gov.au 

Reviewed 21 January 2020