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30 May 2006
Noosa is a popular tourist area in Queensland. But there's a serious health problem putting visitors and locals at risk.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Noosa is one of Australia's favourite holiday destinations and a brand all of its own. With its mix of postcard beaches, upmarket cafes and ecofriendly attitude, it pulls in about 250 thousand visitors a year.
But for all its clean green image Noosa has a dirty secret.
For the past few years water testing has found high levels of bacteria at Little Cove and has been traced to this stormwater drain which flows onto the beach.
According to the World Health Organisation a reading over 200 is considered poor. Its worst rating, very poor, is anything over 500.
In one day in 2003 the levels reached a massive 3100 at Little Cove and 630 at Main Beach. In December they hit 717 and 203 levels, which experts say can cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
DR HELEN STRATTON, MICROBIOLOGIST: If you swallow enough water there is a high risk of illness occurring. If you don't come into contact and swallow the water there's minimal risk of course. But yes there's a high risk at 717.
DR MEGAN HARGREAVES, MICROBIOLOGIST: It could cause you to become quite sick in the stomach, it's a gastro, it could cause gastrointestinal pain and could cause you to become quite sick, if you were drinking the water.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Dr Megan Hargreaves says the bacteria is normally found in human and animal faeces. All of these events have been triggered by heavy rainfall. The water runs off Noosa Hill and washes the bacteria into the ocean.
Should the beach have been closed?
DR HELEN STRATTON: It should have been at that stage, yes, at least for monitoring.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Why is that?
DR HELEN STRATTON: In the guidelines there is a level of over 600 cells per mill that the water should be closed for swimming for 24 hours.
MATT WORDSWORTH: It only takes 12 to 24 hours for the bacteria to wash away but both experts say the council should be looking at ways to contain the problem and fear faulty septic tanks are contributing.
DR HELEN STRATTON: Research shows in Australia that 80% of our septic tanks don't operate to maximum so there's always some leakage, so in 80 per cent of septic tanks that we've monitored they don't work very well.
MATT WORDSWORTH: And I guess it's not exactly the place you want to have those sorts of problems. I mean Noosa's an iconic area isn't it?
DR HELEN STRATTON: Particularly near the ocean because the sand isn't a very good barrier you can get a lot of water movement through sand.
DR MEGAN HARGREAVES: It's one thing that's always an indicator of high contamination in water courses is a lot of septic systems nearby and that will always contaminate the water table and the water course.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Bob Abbott says council has erected a warning sign at Little Cove's stormwater drain.
BOB ABBOTT, NOOSA MAYOR: The only really danger to anybody is to actually swim in the drain and if you swim in the drain next to a surfing beach well I don't know I mean something's wrong with people who are willing to do that particularly when there's a sign there telling you not to do it.
MATT WORDSWORTH: He says the high readings at Main Beach are not a concern.
BOB ABBOTT: The reality is where that particular reading was taken was on the extreme eastern end of the beach, it's right in the corner, the flags have never been in that corner and people are encouraged to swim further away from that. But it's one day in probably 200.
MATT WORDSWORTH: He's also ruled out closing any beach.
BOB ABBOTT: It would be silly for us to close a whole beach off just because of that one thing on one day. We take it seriously we know what we're doing with it. We make sure everyone's advised and if there's an issue we might stop people from swimming on that little corner of the beach but to close the beach no.
Noosa is located North of Brisbane on an area of Queensland known as the Sunshine Coast.
Example: Star players pull in the crowds.
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Here found is the past participle of the irregular verb find. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
To trace something means to follow the course or trail of something. They followed the trail of bacteria back to the stormwater drain.
Stormwater is water that runs off the land. It doesn’t soak into the land but runs off into waterways. After a big storm there can be a lot of stormwater and so most city areas have stormwater drains to allow the water to run off the streets into waterways.
A microbiologist is someone who studies bacteria and other small organisms.
if you were
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Example: The rain runs offmy roof into the gutters.
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carried away by water, usually a flood
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To rule something out is to decide that it is unsuitable or impossible.
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