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Melbourne’s Bay swimmers hitting the road for their swim due to poor water quality

For the past six weeks, Victoria has seen extreme wet weather spoiling the water quality across Port Phillip Bay for avid open-water swimmers.

Peter Hendriks, Swimwell coach and regular bay swimmer, said he hasn’t seen water quality this poor in the last 40 years of living in Melbourne.

“It is not unusual during the spring season for Melbourne to experience some very heavy rainfall, resulting in heavy volume runoffs and poor water quality,” said Mr Hendriks.

“But the Port Phillip Bay area had been experiencing a longer than normal season of poor water quality this year.

“As a passionate open water swimmer at Half Moon Bay, we generally see the Yarra runoff get to us two days after heavy rainfall and while the bay usually returns to good water quality relatively quickly, it seems to be a bit different this time around.

“In the meantime, most of us open-water swimmers have been venturing further down the Peninsula to get our open-water fix and the local pools have seen a big increase in traffic.”

Yarra River

Don Warner, a Brighton Iceberger and Victorian open water swimming historian has made a return to the pool while waiting for water quality to improve.

“The Yarra River has been discharging dirty water for weeks into the bay and with that comes pollutants and bacteria being flushed in as well as larger items such as logs and driftwood,” said Mr Warner.

“So to avoid that there have been many of us returning to the swimming pools to do our training.

“And while we enjoy it, we are all looking forward to the conditions improving and we can get back in the bay again.

“We have been monitoring the water quality via Victoria’s EPA and checking the southern end of the bay regularly, hoping to find cleaner water as it is further from where the Yarra River empties.”

Victoria’s Chief Environmental Scientist Mark Taylor spoke to The Age and said the water quality had deteriorated due to the recent heavy rainfall over the past few weeks.

“The poor water quality contains more organic particles and sediments, which is why some areas may look a bit brown or tea-coloured,” said Mr Taylor.

“If the water doesn’t look right, don’t go in.”

“I do hope that it will improve throughout the bay as we head into summer.”

To check if the water quality is safe to swim in, visit Victoria’s EPA for water quality data across Port Phillip Bay.

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