UP IN THE AIR: The question of or not it's safe to swim at any of Byron's popular swimming spots remains unanswered following revelations from council the water quality of its beaches have not been tested in six years.
UP IN THE AIR: The question of or not it's safe to swim at any of Byron's popular swimming spots remains unanswered following revelations from council the water quality of its beaches have not been tested in six years. Amber Gibson

Water quality at most popular beaches not tested in 6 years

THE water quality at some of the North Coast's most popular swimming spots has not been tested in more than six years, it has been revealed.

The latest report on the condition of NSW swimming spots revealed that Lake Ainsworth and Evans River swimmers could be exposed to faecal matter.

The 2018-19 Beachwatch study was prepared by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and looked at the condition of waterways and beaches in the Ballina Shire and Richmond Valley.

Most of the two shires' coastal beaches nabbed the highest rating of "very good” and were deemed suitable for swimming almost all of the time.

The exception was Ballina's Shelly Beach, which received the second highest rating.

The Evans River and the northern, eastern and western areas of Lake Ainsworth all claimed the second lowest score of "poor”.

The report said those locations were "susceptible to faecal pollution and microbial water quality is not always suitable for swimming”.

But the report did not include any Byron Shire beaches.

At its own discretion Byron Shire Council was not included in the Beachwatch study.

A council spokeswoman said since 2013, the council had not had the staff capacity or resources to commit to the Beachwatch program due to other project priorities.

"Council does however acknowledge the value of the program and we are reviewing options to again participate in it. Should this be the case the intention would be to include Brunswick Estuary,” she said.

From November 2009 to September 2013, Byron Shire Council actively participated in the State Government's Beachwatch water quality monitoring program.

"The program, which included Main Beach and Clarkes Beach, provided regular and reliable information on beach water quality via a website, enabling people to make informed decisions about where and when to swim, particularly after rain events,” the spokeswoman said.

"The monitoring program revealed that water quality at these beaches rated as 'very good'.

"This was in spite of higher than average rainfall events within this La Nina period.

"The Beach Suitability grade of Very Good indicates that the water quality is considered safe for swimming almost all of the time, with very few potential sources of faecal contamination.”