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Dam use ban flattens Imbil tourism economy

Kieran Bibby learns Borumba Dam has been closed due to blue-green algae.
Kieran Bibby learns Borumba Dam has been closed due to blue-green algae. Arthur Gorrie

IMBIL'S struggling economy took a massive blow with a state administrative decision to close the district's major tourism resource.

The safety-linked closure of the Mary Valley Rattler steam train and the demise of most of the district's primary industry, leaves the town almost entirely dependent on visitors to Borumba Dam.

But now the dam has been closed to "all water-based recreational activities."

"The pub feels it, the cafes feel it. Last time this happened, every business in town had to lay off staff," Borumba Deer Park owner Col Huddy said today.

Water skiing, jet skiing and swimming had already been banned in response to concern about concentrations of toxic blue-green algae.

And now, a total ban has come into force.

A spokesman for the dam's operating authority, Seqwater, said the worsening algal bloom resulted from heat, sunshine and high nutrient levels.

CEO Peter Dennis said the organisation was "fast-tracking the analysis of further lake water samples in an effort to re-open the dam ahead of the Australia Day weekend."

The signs went up today, too late for a handful of disappointed visitors.

Graeme Rummler is praying for rain, lots of it and not just anywhere.

Like most of Imbil's business operators, he needs flooding rain in the Borumba Dam's massive southern and western catchment.

"We need a big flow of cold fresh water into the dam."

It is the only thing, he says, that can kill the blue-green algae outbreak which, he says is killing the town.

His Borumba Fishing 'n' Outdoors business in Yabba Rd is heavily dependent on Borumba Dam tourism, including all the fishing and kayaking activities which are currently banned.

"The decision is not one we take lightly," Mr Dennis said, adding that his organisation had "a duty of care to ensure visitors to our lakes are not exposed to blue-green algal blooms and the potential health conditions which can result from exposure."

"We are very conscious of the impact water-based recreation closures have on the community, including local business and will be re-opening the lake as soon as it I safe to do so.'

"In normal conditions the algae exist in low numbers in waterways with no detriment to public health.

"But under certain conditions, particularly during warmer weather, the algae can grow rapidly, resulting in algal blooms which can produce toxins."

But Mr Huddy says Seqwater is the only dam administrator in Australia that takes such drastic action.

The algae also exist in New South Wales and Victoria and they too apply World Health Organisation and National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines.

"But no-one else closes down dams. They put up signs to warn people."

"It's common sense," Mr Rummler said. "But we're dealing with a government department that won't listen."

Topics:  borumba dam

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