A large fire at an illegally operated wood dump in Somerton has seriously polluted Merri Creek after burning for about a week in late November 2015. MCMC and other agency staff observed dead carp and eels downstream at Bababi marning Grassland (Cooper Street). A 7km stretch of Merri Creek between Somerton and Campbellfield was heavily impacted by runoff from the fire-fighting operations. Dissolved oxygen in the water, essential for creek life, reached the unprecedented level of zero, hence the fish deaths and presumed death of most other creek life. This section of Merri Creek is key habitat for the endangered Growling Grass Frog.
To deal with these extreme conditions, Melbourne Water actively pumped out the polluted Merri Creek water at Barry Rd, Campbellfield and introduced clean water into the creek. Aerators were also put in at key creek locations to improve oxygen levels. These efforts were effective in halting the downstream spread of polluted water and in improving the water quality in the affected area. Samples have been taken to check on any residual toxicants that may have come from the fire and regular monitoring is underway. MCMC is participating in the formal recovery planning for the creek environment, along with Hume Council, Melbourne Water, EPA and the Victorian Department of Environment Land Water & Planning.