Times Past: March 4, 1983 | The Canberra Times

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Canberra had more visitors than usual on this day in 1983, after Gunning’s water supply had been contaminated by sheep manure. The people of the town had been given a taste for travel, after the contaminated water forced them to leave town in search of a shower that didn’t smell like poo. The issue came after a storm washed manure from surrounding paddocks into the Lachlan River. The shire engineer, Mr Jerry Bliss, said it was unpreventable, as a drought left paddocks bare of grass. The sand in the river had previously been a natural filter for the town’s water, but was instead saturated with manure. Mr Bliss said one positive was that the water would be good for the gardens. “It’s like liquid manure,” he said. For a shower, Mr Bliss suggested one hold their nose throughout to try to ignore the stench. But, having washed themselves with “liquid manure”, it could not be ignored that a certain smell lingered on one’s body after showering. The smell itself was bad enough, but to make matters worse, the people of Gunning were given a clear visual of exactly what was in their water. Their water had turned a very disconcerting color – light brown. The maximum amount of chlorine had been added to the water but the sheep manure overpowered it, and the water remained unfit for use. The only thing the residents of Gunning could do was wait until the pollution cleared, which could take three or four weeks. In the meantime, they just had to travel to places like Canberra, where the water was both clear and odourless. See: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/12937195


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