Concerns for Adelaide’s Port River dolphins after foam cleaning balls found on shore

The health of Adelaide's Port River dolphins is again in focus, after cleaning balls from a nearby power station washed up on the shoreline.

Key points:Foam cleaning balls from the AGL Torrens Power Station were found on the shoreline of the Port River over the weekendThe EPA and AGL are investigatingThis latest incident comes amid an investigation into the declining health of Port River dolphins

The Environment Protection Agency and energy company AGL have been investigating how the small, colourful foam cleaning balls from the Torrens Island Power Station were found in the Port River.

A member of the public noticed the foam balls over the weekend and posted about it on social media.

An AGL spokeswoman said a "small number" of the balls had washed up on the shoreline.

Power station with AGL sign on Torrens Island.
The AGL power station on Torrens Island.(ABC News: Dean Faulkner)

"These foam cleaning balls are used regularly to reduce build-up in our condensers as part of our routine maintenance activities," she said.

The spokeswoman said AGL had conducted a clean-up of the area on Monday morning and would "continue to monitor the situation" and work closely with the EPA and the local community. 

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In a statement, the EPA said it was told yesterday that small, coloured balls were in the water at the Barker Inlet, and that its officers would continue to investigate.

"The EPA thanks the public and the City of Port Adelaide Enfield for reporting the matter," the statement read.

Australian Marine Wildlife Research Rescue's Aaron Machado told ABC Radio Adelaide that dolphins and seabirds were unlikely eat the foam balls, but there was a possibility they could eat fish that may be attracted to the balls.

"[The foam balls] don't get digested by the animal and, if it does happen to cause any gut impaction, then everything they eat after that backs up and … it's [an] extremely painful, slow death," he said.

An investigation into the declining health of dolphins at the Port River sanctuary has been underway for months.

Baby and parent dolphins in Port River, Adelaide.
Baby dolphin and its parent swim in the Port River, Adelaide.(ABC News)

Mr Machado, one of the experts involved in the investigation, said the cause was not yet clear but it was not solely due to human activities such as fishing and boating.

"There's a lot of pollution in that river … that will be there through my lifetime, my children's lifetime and so on, and the adverse effect of that type of pollution is going to live on," he said.

Mr Machado said the Port River had been "misused" in the past and was a "very industrialised port".

"The by-product of that is you are going to have animals that have adverse effects, as would we if we lived in that environment."

A man with dark hair in a navy polo shirt with logos on it stands on the beach
Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organisation's Aaron Machado says the foam balls could cause animals an "extremely painful, slow death".(ABC News: Mahalia Carter)

Mr Machado said it was also not clear if the impact of hypersaline water leaking into the St Kilda mangroves had affected the dolphins.

"Is it a coincidence? I don't know," he said.

"I really do hope we can get to the bottom of it and we're staying as optimistic as possible."

Posted 10 Nov 202110 Nov 2021Wed 10 Nov 2021 at 1:24am, updated 10 Nov 202110 Nov 2021Wed 10 Nov 2021 at 7:22amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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