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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Lake Ainsworth still closed to swimming

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Lake Ainsworth will remain closed for at least another week after tests on January 28 found levels of blue-green algae remain high. Photo Ballina Shire Council

A red alert level for Lake Ainsworth remains in place for the third week in a row. Testing by Ballina Shire Council’s environmental health officers today (Tuesday January 29) indicates the level of blue-green algae remains dangerous, so the lake will remain closed for at least another week.

While the red alert is in place Council recommends no swimming or other primary recreational activities at the Lake.

Environmental health officer Rachael Jenner told Echonetdaily, ‘I tested again today and based on my visual observation there is little if any reduction in algae and scum since we our previous test last Monday.

‘The dominant species currently in the Lake is microcystis, which is potentially toxic. There are also extensive slicks and scums present. The public are advised to not use the Lake for primary recreation until further notice,’ said.

The species of blue-green algae identified are potentially toxic and may cause gastroenteritis in humans if consumed and skin and eye irritations after contact. People who believe they may have been affected by blue-green algae are advised to seek medical advice.

Warning signs at key recreational areas were erected on January 16 and will remain in place while high levels of blue-green algae are present.

Blue-green algae occur naturally and can reproduce quickly in favourable conditions where there is still or slow-flowing water, abundant sunlight and sufficient levels of nutrients.

Reopening of the Lake 

Ballina Council said it is not possible to predict how long the algae will remain at high levels but monitoring is continuing and the alert will be lifted as soon as the high levels of algae dissipate.

Under the WaterNSW Guidelines a red alert can only be lifted when two consecutive results are below red alert and have been recorded a week apart. Slicks and scums must also not be present for the red alert to be lifted.

The algae status of Lake Ainsworth is updated weekly on Council’s website ballina.nsw.gov.au

Updates about blue-green algae blooms and red level warning areas can be obtained by calling NSW Water on 1800 999 457 or visiting waternsw.com.au/water-quality/algae.



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  1. Lake Ainsworth is a public swimming and water recreation facility controlled by Ballina Council.
    The blue-green algae is not supposed to be in the Lake when Council control the swimming and Health conditions.
    The Council Environmental Health Officer says: ‘The dominant species currently in the Lake is microcystis, which is potentially toxic.”
    It is potentially toxic, so could there be legal action by any member of the public against Ballina Council for the deplorable state the Lake is in. It is a Health hazard.
    Why is the Council waiting for the algae to disappear all by itself? It is the job of the Council not to let the algae into the Lake and if it is in the Lake it is their responsibility to get the potentially toxic algae out of the lake.
    This is a public swimming facility and many tourists will be reading this article.
    This Health hazard could affect tourism to the town of Ballina and therefore the local economy.

  2. According to a long time (35+ years) resident, Lake Ainsworth was once a popular windsurfing spot. There was plenty of wind sweeping across the lake, which in turn not only pushed the windsurfers along at high speeds, but also oxygenated the water becasue of the choppy conditions caused by the wind.
    Roll forward 30+ years and the trees that surround the lake (planted intentionally according to my source), now block the wind effectively making the lake a virtual pond with very little wind exposure. Hence the increased algae blooms.

    Rather than closing off the eastern access road, why not address the root problem, which is the lack of oxygenation?
    google fact “Aeration is used to increase the level of oxygen in the water. Aeration is an environmentally friendly technique to maintain and rejuvenate water bodies. To eliminate chemical use and create a healthy ecosystem, aeration systems can be used. It is important to maintain healthy levels of dissolved oxygen in your pond because the oxygen aids in the breakdown of decaying vegetation and other nutrients that find their way into the water.”


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