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Coogee’s Chlorine Catastrophe

By Jessica Issa on February 1, 2013 in News

Photo: Matt Lauder – www.mattlauder.com.au

What is usually a serene marine scene at Coogee’s Wylie’s Baths turned into an unfortunate display of dead sea creatures on the last day of December. Several belly-up octopuses and a badly bleached marine microcosm were the result of a chlorine contamination that took place the night before.

In a statement released on its website, the Wylie’s Baths Trust stated: “Chlorine has been used to clean the pool surrounds for many years. It is a necessary function of our duty of care to manage serious slip hazards caused by the build-up of marine growth. The success or otherwise of the cleaning process is a complex issue, dependent upon many factors… in this instance, we got it wrong”.

Randwick City Council has responded to the incident, making it very clear that they had no involvement in the contamination. A Randwick City Council spokesperson stated that Wylie’s Baths is an “independent body responsible for the management, care and control of Wylie’s Baths”.

And while the Wylie’s Bath Trust stressed that chlorine is necessary for the management of the saltwater pool, Randwick City Council’s statement seemed at odds with this view.

“Randwick Council does not use chlorine to clean any of the coastal pools it is responsible for, and instead uses a hot water pressure cleaning system. We are committed to safe maintenance practices which do not harm our local marine life,” the statement said.

Local resident Geoff Wren has been swimming at Wylie’s every day for 27 years and he was more than a little surprised to see the damage the chlorine had done.

“I saw them take out the big octopus from the pool, it was as big as a basketball. It was quite disturbing, a lot of kids saw it, it upset a few people… I’d seen that octopus a lot for quite a few years… it was an attraction,” Wren said.

Wren said he saw four dead octopuses, one huge one and three small ones.

Another local resident, Matthew Martin, shared similar sentiments after he went for a swim on New Year’s Day and was “appalled to find instead of the beautiful rock ocean we all know and love, it was more like a dead sea… not only was every marine fibre bleached white and dead, so was every marine creature that usually lives in the pool. When I got out of the pool… I was looking around, you could only call it devastation that had taken place. I have atopic dermatitis so I was alarmed,” Martin told The Beast.

Given that Wylie’s Baths is renowned for its exciting marine life, the incident is particularly disappointing.

“It’s really one of the great things Wylie’s has got going for it. I’ve seen octopuses, big schools of fish, crabs; a Port Jackson shark came in one day. That’s the nature of the place normally, I just love it because of that… and that’s why it was all the more shocking” Martin added.

Despite the damage, the incident did not lead to the pool’s closure and it has remained safe to swim in according to Wylie’s Baths’ management.

Wylie’s Baths Trust is actively working to ensure this is an isolated incident. According to their statement: “Wylie’s Baths Trust and Management are engaging Randwick City Council and the EPA on the matter and will be reviewing our pool cleaning procedures as part of the investigation.”

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