Ayr Creek in Inverloch has formed a natural lagoon on the foreshore. This recurring natural phenomenon provides both a thriving environment and ecosystem for birds and aquatic life, and an amenity issue due to the unpleasant smell.
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Pamela Rothfield, explained this natural occurring issue is not unique to Bass Coast.
“These lagoons usually occur on foreshores away from residential houses. In these cases, while the smell would be present, it does not present an issue to households and so nature is left to run its course without intervention,” Cr Rothfield said.
“In this case, we have to consider the issue of the unpleasant smell. This is why Council are continuously working with the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) with who we share the responsibility of this water way.”
“We are also enthusiastic about embarking on a citizen science project to involve the community in gaining their knowledge and experience, increasing education around this issue, exploring options and ultimately, finding a solution.”
Council met with WGCMA and Environment Protection Authority on-site recently to discuss the odour issue, and experience it first hand. The WGCMA and Council will begin a joint project to investigate options.
The project will engage a qualified specialist and use a citizen science approach to help find the balance between the environment values and amenity issues. This project will include the responsibility of caring for the lagoon and minimising odour issues.
Bass Coast Manager Sustainable Environment, Deirdre Griepsma, explained that Anderson Inlet is one of the most dynamic inlets in Victoria with vast natural sand movements and changing currents. These movements form a part of how the lagoon is formed, and how it naturally opens.
“Both the open and closed occurances are natural and an important part of the estuary cycle; we know that nature will run its course to open the lagoon, unfortunately we cannot predict when it will happen,” Ms Griepsma said.
Micro-organisms in the lagoon produce nutrients for plants and help to maintain the vital habitat for macro-invertebrates, fish and birds.
These micro-organisms breathe in sulphate from salt water, eat organic matter and turn these into nutrients that benefit the environment.
A by-product of this process is the hydrogen sulphide odour which is not harmful to humans or animals in the open air, but does produce an unpleasant odour.
“The estuary is a habitat to several threatened bird species. Artificially opening the lagoon can result in poor water quality, fish deaths and changes in vegetation and therefore negatively impact the amenity and landscape of the estuary,” Mrs Griepsma said.
“For these reasons we need to be very meticulous in considering how we manage the lagoon.”
While the lagoon is not unsafe or harmful, Council advise that people should not swim in Ayr Creek or the connected lagoon.
For more information on Council’s role in the Ayr Creek lagoon, contact Council on 1300 BCOAST (226 278) or (03) 5671 2211.