River water quality questioned

Dr Ian Wright is concerned about the Nepean River. Photo: Megan Dunn
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To swim or not to swim, that is the question.

At least it has been for Penrith residents looking to cool off in the Nepean River for decades.

Now there’s calls for that question to be answered definitively, with a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University calling for more testing and information about water quality in the river.

Locals have enjoyed swimming in the Nepean for years but there’s never been any strong answer about whether it’s a good idea or not.

“Whether they should or shouldn’t, people are swimming in the river, I don’t think you can stop them,” Dr Ian Wright told the Weekender.

Dr Wright believes the State Government should provide information about rivers like the Beachwatch NSW site that is available for harbour and coastal beaches.

The site displays pollution levels, temperatures and safety warnings.

“I just can’t believe this isn’t available in western Sydney when we need it more in this incredible heat, it is far hotter here than the coast,’’ Dr Wright said.

Dr Ian Wright is concerned about the Nepean River. Photo: Megan Dunn

Dr Wright is an avid swimmer, even swimming in the river himself, but says pollution coming from farming upstream, building sites or sewerage effluent that is disposed of in the river could impact on the water quality.

As a scientist he cannot say whether you should or shouldn’t swim in the river, but the advice Dr Wright offers is to be careful if you do take the leap.

“For very young, very old or sick people recovering I wouldn’t be swimming,” he said.

“If I was a parent with kids, I would discuss it and be careful.”

Dr Wright takes his university students to the river to look for bacteria in the water that could indicate dangerous water quality for people.

While he said that most of the time the waterways are great there is cause for concern on occasion.

“We do time to time find elevated levels that suggest the likely presence of pathogens,” he said.

“This means it could be potentially hazardous to go swimming.”

Dr Wright is encouraging more testing of the water quality in the river, and for any results of such testing to be made publicly available.

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