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Australia Battles Oil Slick on Yarra River

testing samples to narrow down what type of oil it is and to determine if it's new or old, automotive or industrial," he said.

"It will prove very difficult to find the source of the material. We are analysing the samples and have people in the field trying to eliminate where it came from."

Dawson said that there was a large network of stormwater drains through which the oil could have flown into the river.

"It's going to be a significant challenge to determine precisely the source as there are many thousands of possible sources of the oil," he said.

CULPRITS face up to seven years' jail and fines up to $250,000.

Even otherwise storm water flowing into Yarra was threatening its health, Chris Walsh, an expert commented.

The Yarra River Action Plan, launched by the State Government 18 months ago, earmarked $250 million to deal with contamination from leaking septic tanks and $20 million to target storm water pollution.

In 2005, an investigation by a prominent newspaper, The Age, revealed widespread pollution in the river, including high E.coli levels. Recent EPA monitoring found poor water quality at several city sites.

Dr Walsh said stormwater contained "a cocktail of polluting substances", including cigarette butts and chemicals.


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