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Grease balls make a return

Balls of grease and human waste have washed up on at least two beaches along South Shore.

“Sewage balls”, also known as “grease balls”, were spotted along Elbow Beach and Grape Bay Beach, both in Paget, early this week.

It is the first time since April that grease balls have been reported.

A mother of four who lives in the Grape Bay area described the situation as “revolting”.

She added that she was most concerned for the health of her children, who were all under the age of six, with the youngest being less than a year old.

The mother explained: “I've got four young children who are on the beach every day, if not every other day.

“Obviously, because of where the balls do come from, who knows what the repercussions are to their health?”

The mother, who asked not to be named, said that she knew about grease balls, but had not seen them this year.

She added that she saw them about 18 months ago when she first moved into the area and did her own research.

But her worry was that others would not know about them or the potential health risks that came with them.

The mother said: “I don't think that many people know too much about them. It wasn't something we'd been told about after all.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that grease balls were oils that mixed with waste water and congealed into a buoyant mass.

These masses float to the surface of the water when the waste is disposed off at the offshore Seabright Sewage Outfall.

However, she explained that they occasionally came back to shore as “grey pebble-like lumps of grease the size of marbles”.

The department spokeswoman added: “Grease balls are not scattered over the beach but will be in the wrack line: the line of debris left on the beach by high tide.

“The wrack is usually made up of sargassum weed, bits of plastic, and marine debris.”

The grease balls first appeared in 2013 and created a public health hazard that made beaches “unfit for recreational use”, according to a study of the beaches that same year.

The Government began daily tests on the water quality and imposed strict policies on fat disposal for food services.

Grease balls reappeared in 2016, though the water quality remained at a level that was safe enough for recreational use.

The department spokeswoman said that the beaches were still safe for use when tests throughout the year reported low levels of bacteria.

She added: “Historically, the bacterial levels in the seawater are unaffected by the presence of grease balls; analysis has shown that the grease and its encapsulated bacteria do not transfer to the seawater.

“We only resample when bacterial levels in the actual seawaters exceed the Department of Health guideline value.”

The spokeswoman said that the Department of Parks had been contacted to arrange further clean ups.

She added that beachgoers should avoid contact with these grease balls and report them to the Department of Health at 287-5333.

Children should be kept away from the area until the grease balls have been removed.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources did not respond to a request for comment.

Washed up: “grease balls”, a mixture of mostly cooking oil and faeces from sewer systems, have begun to wash up on some beaches (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published September 14, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 14, 2019 at 8:41 am)

Grease balls make a return

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