07 Nov Naomi Soustal
Naomi Soustal is Healthy Land and Waters Assistant Team Leader for Science, Information and Monitoring. Based at the Griffith University Centre for Coastal Management as an Adjunct Research Fellow she focuses primarily on water quality improvement programs. These include; preparation of the annual Report Card for South East Queensland waterways; assessments of the suitability of waterways for recreation; and facilitating regional collaboration among stakeholders to achieve water quality improvement.
Safe Recreation in South East Queensland Waterways
South East Queensland (SEQ) waterways provide an environment for people to enjoy recreational activities such as swimming, boating, fishing and surfing which provide economic, health and wellbeing benefits year-round. On occasions these waterways contain faecal pollution which can cause disease including gastroenteritis as well as skin and upper respiratory conditions through direct contact. Illness symptoms are not always associated with contaminated water as there is little evidence of the disease being contracted within a specific waterway. As these connections are often difficult to establish a risk-based approach to the monitoring and investigation of contamination is adopted. This provides waterway managers with an indication of unsafe conditions and potential pollution sources to inform mitigation measure and reduce public health risk.
Higher than usual rainfall during the 2010-11 wet season bought unprecedented flooding to SEQ. Following this event enquiries from the public and government regarding the responsibility and appropriate management of water-based recreational sites for human health risks were received. This highlighted the limited capacity across the region to respond adequately in a consistent and coordinated manner. The Queensland Public Health Act (2005) assigns responsibility for administrating public health risks associated with water (including water used for recreational purposes) to local government. Healthy Land and Water (HLW) has since established and continues to facilitate a regional Human Health program to support local government in meeting their requirements under the Act in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Guidelines for managing Risks in Recreational Water (NHMRC 2008). Since the program’s inception a stakeholder steering committee, scientific expert panel, training sessions/materials and site assessment and management tools have been established. These resources have been applied across the region to varying degrees and used to review existing programs with recommendations provided to improve implementation and reduce risk through several approaches included waterway management.