Complaints have flooded into City of Newcastle council about a reported decline in cleanliness at the city's two ocean baths.
Swimmers have detailed issues about the Newcastle and Merewether pools relating to green and murky water, algae and scum on the walls and vandalism.
But the council said there were a number of contributing factors to the cleanliness of the baths, and that staff had been subject to online and in person abuse over the issue in recent days.
Newcastle councillor Kath Elliott, who is a regular swimmer at the Merewether Ocean Baths, said she noticed the problem before Christmas, and has not seen much improvement since.
"I've found this season has been worst I can recall," she said. "I've been swimming at Merewether since 1983 and I can't remember it being such an issue. This summer I have not been able to have a clean swim.
"They're iconic. We promote them in every photo we have of the city. It's really disappointing this summer has turned out the way it has.
She said on Sunday she couldn't see the bottom when swimming with goggles.
"This can happen in the summer months, but it had only been cleaned on Thursday," she said.
Cr Elliott said she wasn't criticising the staff, who were "trying very hard" but believes the issue is a recent change in workforce leading to a lack of experience.
"I think staff are doing the best job they can," she said. "The staff need to be able to fine tune it, but they're just not showing results yet."
Steven Fleming swims and lives near Newcastle Ocean Baths and reported similar issues at that complex.
"I haven't noticed it being nice and clear for some months," he said. "It's been bit cruddy for quite some time, there's a lot of green algae on walls.
"The water quality is pretty dismal. It can fluctuate - at the moment a lot of river water is mixing with ocean water because of the prevailing wind.
"I always go down there, but I've got to admit, when the water clarity is not that great, it's less inviting. Being salt water I don't think it's unhealthy but it's just less inviting.
"It's often regarded as the jewel in the crown of the city. It's a great tourist attraction so it's in all of our interest the thing looks good."
City of Newcastle said the cleaning schedule hadn't changed, but in the past month several factors had contributed to cleanliness, including increased attendance and wet weather affecting ocean water quality.
"While City of Newcastle schedules weekly cleaning of Newcastle Ocean Baths and Merewether Ocean Baths, the ability to clean the pool is highly dependent on surf conditions, tidal heights and the weather," a spokesperson said. "The onsite pumps can assist in controlling cleanliness, however they can only operate during mid to high tides and as such are unfortunately not always able to be used.
"Additionally, water quality is heavily influenced by the naturally occurring water quality of the ocean and the debris present. During summer, warmer water accelerates algae growth resulting in a build-up on the walls. Although this results in the appearance of an unclean pool, regular testing indicates that the water quality is acceptable for public swimming.
"In recent days a number of staff have been subject to online and in person abuse from swimmers who expect the water to be pristine daily. This is simply not possible because, as obvious as it might sound, City of Newcastle does not control the quality of the ocean water."
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