Rubbish washing up in Warrnambool Lady Bay during the dredging program has been labelled dangerous, irresponsible and "literally trashing our beaches".
A number of community groups have banded together to call for dredging to be paused after hundreds of kilos of rubbish washed up on the beach, which they say puts beach users and marine life at risk.
Beach Patrol 3280, Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network, Warrnambool Planning and Heritage Group and the Warrnambool Board Riders Club want the city council to urgently review the adequacy of its environmental management plan for the dredging project.
Beach Patrol volunteers led by Colleen Hughson have so far collected more than 700 aluminium cans from the Lady Bay beach between the surf club and the Pavilion which they say have been shredded in the dredging process.
More than 100 kilograms of assorted plastics, oily outboard engine filters, broken glass and other rubbish has also washed up.
"The way the rubbish from the dredging has been managed shows complete disrespect for Warrnambool's coast and marine environment. We expect accountability," the groups said in a joint statement.
"It seems common sense to have some kind of screening or filtering, so that the rubbish is collected and disposed of rather than it being pumped back into the ocean to end up on our beach and in the water."
Warrnambool mum and heritage group president Tonia Wilcox said she was devastated on the first warm weekend of summer and the first day of Surf Club patrols, the dredge was pouring filthy-looking waste into the ocean only a few metres from the patrol flags.
"My daughter stepped on a sharp object in the water in front of the surf club last week and the cut needed dressing for five days," she said.
"On Saturday, a woman needed first aid from the surf club members after cutting herself on something hidden in the sand.
"There were shredded aluminium cans everywhere - I hope other people haven't cut themselves on the rubbish that is washing up. There aren't even any signs to warn people of the risk."
Concerned about water quality in Lady Bay, the groups want the council to reassure people the water near the outfall and through the bay had been tested and was safe.
Heritage group secretary Julie Eagles said the council needed to pause the dredging until filters and screens to capture the rubbish were installed.
"We want council, as the land manager, to better monitor and manage this situation so there is minimal risk to the environment and to the people using it," she said.
"We also want the rubbish washing back up on our beaches to be cleaned up. We're coming into our busiest season - tourists and locals want to enjoy our beach. What's happening currently is dangerous, irresponsible and it's literally trashing our beaches."
Beach Patrol 3280 said it had alerted the council to the problem a week ago but the dredging continued with no change.
Ms Hughson said the breakwater had been for decades, and continued to be, one of Warrnambool's worst litter hot spots.
She said there were no recycling bins along the breakwater. "A proper waste management plan and community campaign is needed for this area and is long overdue," she said.
Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network chair Bruce Campbell said he had asked for information about reports of a highly invasive marine pest - undaria - being found in the harbor and was seeking advice about what danger the dredging poses for spreading into the nearby Merri Marine Sanctuary.
But the council said that while the DNA of undaria had been detected, no actual undaria had been found despite surveys by divers.
The council in conjunction with Deakin University continue to undertake testing for undaria at the Port of Warrnambool.
"While there are signs of undaria DNA, there are no signs of physical undaria," a council spokesman said.
"If present at all, physical undaria is normally prominent with enclosed harbours which Warrnambool is not. If present it would likely be on physical structures like the breakwater or boats."
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