White foam engulfs Dandenong Creek

Melbourne’s east residents recorded a strange white foam that was spotted floating along Dandenong Creek which environmental scientists believe is detergent or surfactants.

Chief Executive Officer at Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identification and Management (CAPIM) Professor Vincent Pettigrove said, “Obviously, there was a large quantity of this pollutant in the stream and is likely to have come from and industrial or commercial site.”

“This the second time a large quantity of foam has entered Dandenong Creek in this area.  When the first event occurred at Melbourne Cup Day, it killed all the fish in the creek including eels.”

The Environment Protection Authority’s executive director of regional services Damian Wells said the source and composition of the chemical pollution in the creek had not yet been determined.

Former President of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Professor Ian Rae adds that it would be hard to identify the source because they are intermittent.

“Urban waterways like the Dandenong Creek receive urban stormwater and there is a network of drains leading down to the creek. The release (or releases – but I have made the simplifying assumption that there is only one source) can take place some distance away from the creek, with material flowing down underground drains before it emerges in the creek. The periodic releases of detergent suggest that it’s not just an emergency.”

The pollutants or these white foams have been released during the weekend suggesting that whoever the culprit is allegedly knows it is illegal and they are to go against environmental regulations.

“The reason for a weekend release might have more to do with innocent (but unwitting) business activity than an attempt to cover up illegal activity,” said Ian.

He said that these cases can be treated can be treated on-site or pumped up and taken away by waste treaters.

Professor Vincent though believes the threats caused by these pollutants means we need to find a way to curb this:

“We need to think about ways of intercepting run-off from industrial estates.  For example, there has been some through to divert dry weather flows from this estate into the sewerage system.”

Feature image source: Amelia Nicoll