The cause of an awful smell in Tweed Heads has been revealed.
The cause of an awful smell in Tweed Heads has been revealed.

What’s behind the awful smell wafting through Tweed

TWEED Shire Council has been flooded with calls about supposed sewerage leaks in the north of the shire.

But fear not - the powerful stench which has forced the council to inspect sewage pump stations and mains has been caused by natural gas produced by rotting mangrove fruit.

Shining some light on the situation, the council said in a statement it received numerous calls from residents around Terranora Inlet (and particularly Cobaki Broadwater Village), The Anchorage and Oxley Cove.

The rotting fruit of the grey mangrove is the source of sewage-like smells in some areas close to the water in Tweed.
The rotting fruit of the grey mangrove is the source of sewage-like smells in some areas close to the water in Tweed.


The residents reported "suspected sewer leaks causing a persistent foul odour in residential areas".

But inspections undertaken by council workers determined sewerage systems were working fine - there was no ammonia present, which the council stated would be a "telltale sign of the presence of sewage in waterways".

The council's waterways program leader Tom Alletson said the most common species of mangrove in the Tweed, the grey mangrove, began fruiting "prolifically" about a month ago.

Pneumatophores of Grey Mangroves.
Pneumatophores of Grey Mangroves.

"Grey mangroves drop fruit at this time of year and there are masses of grey mangrove fruits stranded within the 25 hectare wetland to the east of places such as Cobaki Broadwater Village and other sections of estuary," he said.

"The factors which cause the odours to become so strong at certain times are not clear, but would be related to tide, rainfall, the amount of fruit dropped in the season, frequency of tidal flushing and wind strength and direction. "

Mr Alletson said the legally protected mangroves were a vital part of the Tweed estuary and provide a habitat for fish, crabs, prawns and bird species, while stabilising shorelines.

"While it is acknowledged that the smell generated in these areas is offensive, in almost all cases it is entirely natural, temporary, and one of the few downsides of living in proximity to our beautiful waterways," he said.

Mr Alletson said the council had no control over the natural process and was not able to combat the odour.

Nevertheless, the council advised that residents who remain concerned about sewerage-like odours can phone the council on (02) 6670 2400.