CLEAN WATERS IN NATIONAL PARKS

NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION of NSW Inc.

Policy No: 7, 6 September 1986

Table of Contents

1. The Policy

2. Definitions of terms used in the Policy and throughout the document

3. Listing of main sources of pollution of waters

4. Information gathering

5. Strategies to combat pollution from sources within national parks

1. THE POLICY

It is the policy of National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) to ensure that national park waters maintain, or regain and maintain, a natural condition.

2. DEFINITIONS

In the context of this Policy the following definitions apply:

"National Park" includes all national parks, nature reserves, state recreation areas and other lands subject to the National Parks and Wildlife Act; all bodies of water enclosed by such lands; all aquatic reserves subject to the Fisheries and Oyster Farms Act; the protected zones of marine and estuarine protected areas declared under relevant legislation; all state forests, flora reserves, forest preserves, forest parks and other lands subject to the Forestry Act; and all water catchment areas vested in Water Boards or other drinking water supply authorities.

It also includes all potential national parks, particularly those that have been formally proposed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, or by NPA or other conservation organisations in a written submission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

"Waters" includes all rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, natural or artificial watercourses, wetlands, swamps, bogs, dams or tidal waters including the sea or part thereof; all surface waters (including snow and ice) whether confined or unconfined, flowing or static; all underground waters, artesian waters and waters contained in aquifers whether tapped by man or not; all estuarine waters whether fresh, brackish or saline; and all waters capable of affecting the shores, beaches, rock platforms or other features of any national park as defined, and with special reference to any marine park or aquatic reserve or protected zone of a marine and estuarine protected area.

(Note: The concept of "waters capable of affecting the shores, beaches ..." is intentionally very wide. This is to ensure that the onus of proof shall lie with the polluter to prove beyond reasonable doubt that wastes discharged into waters are not injuriously affecting park shores, beaches, etc.)

"National Park Waters" means any waters (as defined above) within, bordering, or beneath any national park (as defined above).

"Feral Animal" includes any domestic animal gone wild; any animal whatsoever -- including fish and other aquatic species, reptiles and amphibians, insects and invertebrates -- not indigenous to the locality; any exotic or non-native animal; any animal liberated by man or having escaped from captivity where such species was previously native to another locality or country.

Note 1: For purposes of this Policy the dingo (Canis dingo) shall not be regarded as feral.

Note 2: Any beast of burden or animal used by man to transport passengers or goods shall be subject to the full force of the definition above. The fact that any beast of burden, whether horse, camel, donkey or other species, is deliberately brought in and used by man shall not exempt it from being regarded as feral.

See references to horseriding under Listing and Strategies (below).

"Pollute", "Pollutant", "Pollution" and "Wastes" shall have the meanings ascribed to them in Section 5 of the Clean Waters Act (1970) and the act of polluting waters shall be as set down in Section 16(2) of that Act.

"Natural Condition" - completely free from pollution caused by the activities of man. In assessing this, regard shall be given to the appearance, smell and taste of the water and the absence of sediment, as well as all other relevant factors. These factors include the chemical, biological and physical conditions.

3. LISTING OF MAIN PERCEIVED SOURCES OF POLLUTION OF WATERS

* Human Use and Visitation

This includes pollution both from short term visits -- day visits and camping -- and from permanent or "hard-top" accommodation in hotels, motels, lodges, cabins, huts or other structures, singly or in "villages". The pollution types include sewage pollution, garbage and garbage leachate pollution, and any other type of pollution caused by materials, fuels, cleaners, chemicals, paints, oils or any substance brought into the park by human visitors or connected with their transport and accommodation.

* Motor Vehicles

This includes any type of engine driven conveyance and in particular motor cars and motor cycles of all kinds whether driven by one or more wheels. The types of pollution include leaked and spilt fuel, petrol, diesel oil or other, together with minor sources such as leaked or spilt engine coolant, battery acid, hydraulic fluid or other substances.

In addition, pollution arising from soil, silt, mud, weed seeds or other substances disturbed by the passage of vehicles and subsequently entering waters.

In alpine areas, the practice of spreading salt or other chemicals on roads for de-icing is another source of pollution when the chemical subsequently washed into streams.

* Power Boats

These are regarded as a special case of engine-driven vehicles, and the same sources of pollution should be noted as above, that is, spilt fuel, leaked lubricants and other substances mentioned. Exhaust gases from boat engines enter the water directly and can cause hydrocarbon and carbon pollution. Chemicals used in marine "anti-fouling" compounds are a source of heavy-metal pollution. In addition, there is a constant risk of discharge of human excreta from boats including houseboats, directly into waters unless boats are equipped with appropriate facilities. Boat propellers and boat anchors can cause disturbance and damage to the bed of the waters and the accompanying vegetation, while boat bow-waves, "wash" and wake can cause erosion of banks and shorelines.

* Feral Animals

These include all species of animal introduced to the park, other than those indigenous to the particular area. Of special concern are pigs, horses and cattle, but the list is long and also includes rabbits, foxes, goats, donkeys, camels, dogs, cats and others. The types of pollution include that from bacteria, viruses and parasites and any micro-organism able to be spread by the feral animal or its excreta. Examples include Campylobacter, Giardia, Norwalk virus, Hepatitis virus, Salmonella, "foot-and-mouth" and others. Domestic cattle and dogs are known to be carriers of Giardia and can cause infection of humans.

Horseriding is a special case - horses being one of the feral animals - aggravated by added danger of mechanical erosion of soil on tracks and subsequent siltation of waters, or spread of weed seeds.

* Building Operations, Engineering and Earthworks

While the most obvious ill-effect of all such operations is silt pollution caused by gross disturbance of earth surfaces, it must be borne in mind they are frequently accompanied by engine-driven equipment (refer motor vehicles) and occasionally by engine propelled craft (refer power boats). In addition there is a range of substances ancillary to building and engineering works; cements, lime, grouts, chemicals and cleaners, paints and oils, acids and alkalis. The dire results of the 1986 fire in the Kosciusko Ski-tube construction are a warning.

Building of roads, airstrips, helipads, pipelines and powerlines all examples of works to be carefully controlled.

* Aircraft

Low flying over lakes or other water bodies can cause pollution by emissions in engine exhaust. This type of pollution is a possibility in Myall Lakes National Park, which is frequently overflown by RAAF aircraft.

Another source of pollution from aircraft is spraying or dusting of pesticides, weedicides or fertilisers on agricultural land adjoining national parks.

4. INFORMATION GATHERING

In pursuing its policy on clean waters in parks, NPA will compile information about all related topics including, but not limited to, the following:

... the present quality (and where possible the previous quality) of any waters;

... all forms of pollution including both those which may be licensed under Section 20 of the Clean Waters Act 1970 and those not required to be so licensed;

... all methods of sewage treatment and disposal, with special reference to technologies of purification, nutrient removal, disinfection and other processes;

... the biology of all species of flora and fauna and of man, relevant to effects of water pollution.

5. STRATEGIES TO CONTROL POLLUTION WITHIN NATIONAL PARKS

The "polluter pays" principle should be applied to all operations concerned with the achievement of acceptable water quality.

Human Visitors: NPA regards both cess-pit type "pit-toilets" and septic tanks as sources of pollution unacceptable in national parks. These both give insufficient treatment to guard against serious pollution by harmful bacteria like campylobacter, dangerous parasites like Giardia, or viruses such as Norwalk.

As solutions, in picnic and camping sites and other day-use areas, cess-pit type pit toilets and septic tanks should be phased out and replaced with sealed pit, pump-out type toilets where there is road access, and dry "composting" type toilets yielding no liquid effluent, in the more remote areas.

Motels, lodges and cabins should immediately be connected to a sewage system providing full treatment including quaternary process with nutrient removal, disinfection and dechlorination. In the longer term, all sewage effluent should be piped completely out of the national park before disposal, or, preferably, the accommodation should be removed from the park.

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