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Flood waters – the smell, mould, septics and water

As the flood waters recede and Byron Shire starts to dry out, we can expect our low lying areas to smell.

Byron Shire Council’s environmental health officer, Michael Bingham, said while the breaking down of organic matter and mud does smell, residents should contact Council if they are concerned or suspect another source of the odour e.g. sewage, pollution.

“People should  also stay out of stagnant puddles and pools of water as they could contain pathogens that can cause health problems,” he said.

Pets can also transfer pathogens from polluted water, so keep them clean too.

Mr Bingham urged property owners with backyard septics to have their system checked by a licenced plumber.

Anyone with a septic system that has been compromised should avoid areas where sewage has overflowed. Agricultural or garden lime spread on the affected area can be used to minimise the likelihood of pathogens being transferred to humans and or the environment.

Septic systems and private pump stations that include an electricity supply, may need to have the system assessed by your regular service technician.

Mr Bingham said the other issue that may arise over the coming weeks was mould.

“For some people, mould and mildew can cause health issues and should be carefully removed and controlled as soon as possible. Also check beneath your house where water may lie stagnant undetected,” he said.

For mould management advice, check NSW Health’s website – NSW Health also has information for Maintaining health during and after floods and storms see:

Residents are also reminded that Council is recommending residents and visitors not to swim at local beaches, waterways and creeks following the recent flood because of water quality and submerged hazards.  Beach water quality will be tested next week but submerged hazards can remain a long time.

Given the combined impact of flooding across the Tweed, Richmond and Brunswick Rivers, water quality could be compromised for a week or more.

People extracting water from creeks, waterways and rain water tanks that have been compromised by floodwater, are advised to bring their water to a rolling boil for several minutes before consumption. Rainwater tanks affected by flood waters should be emptied and cleaned before consumption or cooking.

Food businesses that have been compromised by flood water or electricity supply, are advised that food that has been out of temperature control longer than 4 hours should be disposed of. Food business owners needing advice on cleaning and sanitation of their premises can also contact Council for a risk assessment of their business.

Consumers should not consume food including packaged food, drinks and alcohol if they suspect  it has been flood affected.

Call Council’s Environmental Health Officers on 6626 7000 for further advice.

Media contact:

Media Communication Officer
Byron Shire Council
Ph: 02 6626 7320

Byron Shire is located at Australia's eastern-most point with a population of almost 29,000. It is a thriving community where residents and visitors live, work and play in a sustainable environment and where Council strives to deliver the highest standard of local government services and infrastructure.