People in flood-affected areas of far northern New South Wales are being warned of possible health hazards involved in the clean-up, which authorities say could take a month.
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith said the flood-ravaged city was struggling to cope with the mess.
“We’ve doubled resources on the ground but we’re hitting an impasse at the waste facility,” he said.
“We just physically can’t process the trucks quick enough and get them back into the community collecting rubbish, so we’re investigating options and the possibility of sending rubbish elsewhere.
“We know we have to get the rubbish away as quickly as possible for people’s health and safety.
“We just don’t know what the best solution is. We’re assessing the situation.”
North Coast Public Health Unit spokesman Greg Bell said people involved in the clean-up needed to be mindful of the dangers.
“Floodwater, debris and mud is all very potent,” he said.
“Whatever that was on the land ends up in the water — chemicals, oil, dead animals, septic tanks have overflown, sewerage plants have been on bypass so they can’t pump and it goes into the floodwater.
“As the water goes down, that material goes into the mud.”
Mr Bell said people needed to wear high quality shoes and gloves, and make sure they were vaccinated against tetanus.
“The other thing is hats and to make sure you rehydrate yourself. I saw one person had to be taken away because they hadn’t been eating and drinking,” Mr Bell said.
“There’s also mould everywhere. It’s a fungus and it produces spores and it gets around the place.
“If people are allergic to dust and pollen and they feel in these moist houses that they’re not breathing, masks may be handy, but once they get wet around your mouth they’re not of much value and they get in the way.”
Cr Smith said the Lismore central business district was the council’s clean-up priority, but it could take a month to get to residential areas.
Lismore property owner Rebecca Devereaux called for the army to be sent to the region.
“There are so many houses affected. You’re going to need hundreds of people to come down,” she said.
“You’re going to need the State Emergency Service, the army, the Rural Fire Service, to help move the rubbish off the road.”
Source: ABC News