The West Footscray fire has been catastrophic for Stony Creek and Cruickshank Park, according to groups who have worked for years to rehabilitate the popular waterway and open space.
Vast amounts of chemical runoff entered the creek as firefighters battled the August 30 blaze by dousing the fire with as much as 16,000 litres of water each minute.
Melbourne Water pumps have so far removed more than 70 million litres of contaminated runoff from three sites along Stony Creek in Yarraville – enough to fill almost 30 Olympic-size swimming pools.
But the pumping and booms installed to capture debris, oil and foam have failed to stop a potent chemical cocktail from flooding the creek all the way down to the Yarra River.
More than 2300 dead fish needed to be removed from the creek and birdlife has also been affected.
Friends of Cruickshank Park secretary Sue Vittori said her group is in mourning for Stony Creek and the impact of the contamination on the park.
“Cruickshank Park is an oasis in an inner-urban semi-industrial area,” she said.
“The Creek is effectively dead at the moment. Our park is a ghost park and this incident has taken away our oasis.”
Ms Vittori said the “pollution disasters” occurring in the west of Melbourne wouldn’t be tolerated in other parts of the city.
She also questioned the adequacy of warnings around the creek days after the contamination had occurred.
“I’ve still seen young children down there and dogs jumping into the creek.”
Friends of Stony Creek president Steve Wilson said his group has been devastated by the impact of the run-off.
“It was a shock really, we have had spills before but nothing like this – as soon as I saw the water coming through Cruickshank Park I knew this was bad. It’s basically a dead creek.”
Mr Wison said the contamination will have a long-lasting impact on fish, frog and bird life in the area.
EPA chief environmental scientist Andrea Hinwood acknowledged that “a large amount of water” and contaminants from the fire-fighting effort entered Stony Creek and washed all the way down to the Yarra River.
“The terrible deaths of marine life in the creek is because of the chemicals in the water,” she said.
Dr Hinwood said it was too soon to know what the long-term impact would be on the creek and rare mangroves situated at the creek’s backwash.
The EPA advises people and animals to avoid contact with Stony Creek and to keep out of Cruickshank Park until conditions improve.