A FIRE at an oil processing plant in western Sydney is believed to have caused a major fish kill in a nearby creek popular with bass anglers.
Notoriously polluted South Creek is under increasing pressure from industry, housing development, farming, and stringent council regulations forbidding land clearing around the creek bed.
According to reports posted on Facebook by the South Creek Bass Club, the factory fire resulted in thousands of litres of oil and associated chemicals leaking into the nearby South Creek, sending a tide of black water downstream and resulting in deaths of many catfish, large bass and wildlife.
Eyewitnesses reported a putrid smell emanating from the creek in recent days and have filmed footage of several large dead fish.
Fishing World spoke to South Creek Bass Club's Aaron Horne who suspected fire extinguishing chemicals were also to blame for the mass fish kill.
Horne disputes claims by the Environmental Protection Authority that only 50 fish were killed. He said potentially thousands of fish of all species are affected - from tiny gudgeons to carp, eels, mullet and bass. Horne says he contacted the EPA and "begged" them to visit the creek. He has seen very little response from authorities and believes fish kills like this will continue if such environmental concerns continue to be ignored.
South Creek Bass Club was formed in response to similar fish kills in the past.
"I knew this fish kill was coming. I've seen it so many times and I understand the patterns," said Horne.
“Last year in September there was a fire and nothing was done by authorities. We wanted people to know about what was happening in South Creek so we started South Creek Bass Club and encouraged people to get out here,” he said.
Read more and see video footage at: https://www.facebook.com/SouthCreekBassClub?fref=photo
Fisho contacted the Environmental Protection Authority for comment on the fish kill and received the following statement:
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is currently providing advice and support to Penrith and Hawkesbury councils in relation to the clean-up and management of a number of dead fish found in South Creek at Windsor over the weekend.
Initial investigations by council officers and Fisheries officers, and reports from local residents indicate that at least 50 fish have been found dead in South Creek between St Marys and Windsor and have most likely died following firewater runoff from a fire at a factory in St Mary's on January 17, combined with the hot weather conditions over the weekend.
Penrith City Council was the authority responsible for the clean-up of the fire, however EPA scientist's carried out testing for council and the preliminary results show the contamination is largely made up of cooking oil.
The EPA will continue to work with the respective councils' to ensure that measures are in place to minimise the impact on the creek.
South Creek is an area known to the EPA as already having poor water quality prior to the St Mary's fire, so any incident that causes further impact to this environment is a further concern to the EPA. It is important for the community to continue to contact us if they become aware of a pollution incident in their local area.
EPA officers are continuing to work closely with both councils and the local community to resolve this particular incident quickly and ensure that further environmental impacts are kept to an absolute minimum.
Penrith Council has also posted information on their website including a warning to avoid contact with the creek: http://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au/Our-Services/Environment/Pollution/
South Creek is known as popular recreational area for the community but as the investigation into this pollution incident is ongoing the EPA would advise local residents to follow council advice and avoid swimming and other contact with the creek until further advised.
Community members who come across dead fish can report the details to their local council or the EPA's 24hour Environment Line on 131 555.