Rubbish and dead fish are being cleared from Adelaide’s River Torrens after a deluge swept debris into the waterway late last month.

Key points:

  • Rubbish was sent through the system after major rainfall
  • Authorities believe the rain caused carp and catfish deaths
  • Adelaide’s festival season kicks off later this month

Tonnes of waste was sent down the river — which runs from the Adelaide Hills, through the CBD and out to sea — after Adelaide’s wettest January day since 1977.

ABC Radio Adelaide roving reporter Spence Denny said the rainfall, which helped douse the Cherry Gardens bushfire, had caused a stink along the waterway as far north as Angle Vale.

Algae and debris, floating in the River Torrens today.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Spence Denny)

Photographs show filth and debris floating along the river, including in front of the Adelaide Festival Centre near the Adelaide Oval bridge.

Adelaide’s famed festival season — the largest in the southern hemisphere, featuring the Adelaide Fringe and the Adelaide Festival — kicks off later this month.

Some residents expressed their disapproval on social media.

“Not a great look when going to and from the cricket and a terrible look for those international tennis players going to Memorial Drive,” Dave posted on ABC Adelaide’s Facebook page.

“It’s sad to see that people are so lazy and can’t put their rubbish in a bin or take it home. Have some pride in our beautiful city,” said Kate.

Adelaide City Council said it began cleaning up the mess last week.

The council’s associate director for sustainability Michelle English said the operation involved removing dead fish before they became a “health risk”.

Ducks in what appears to be filth, floating in the River Torrens, in front of the Adelaide Festival Centre.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Spence Denny)

“We will review the latest results of our water analyses and are continuing to monitor the river and removing perished wildlife, litter and other debris as required.”

A spokesperson added that the council used “educational, preventative, active, natural, engineered, experimental [and] community driven” methods to keep the city’s waterways clean.

“We have partnered with Green Adelaide, SA Water, EPA (Environment Protection Authority) and other riverside councils for years on projects and infrastructure to reduce the amount of pollutants and improve the quality of water of the River Torrens.”

A spokesperson for Green Adelaide, a Department for Environment and Water project, said heavy rainfall events “can wash large amounts of waste and organic matter into the river”.

Councillor blames staff cuts

Independent Adelaide City councillor Anne Moran blamed recent job cuts at the council for allowing the waste to accumulate.

“We started off on 820 staff [and now there is] in the range of 300 to 400,” she said.

“There has to be cutbacks in services … you can’t lose nearly half your workforce and everything stays the same.

“We have trash racks that are supposed to [prevent the problem] and clearly that’s failed.”

The ABC contacted Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor for a response.