The rural New South Wales town of Griffith has a startling rate of the deadly condition, also known as ALS.
This is most likely due to blue-green algae in local waterways, according to a report by The Sunday Project.
Michelle Vearing and her sister Tania Magoci grew up swimming in Lake Wyangan, on the outskirts of Griffith in the state’s Riverina region.
After Tania was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2011, the siblings vowed to never enter the lake again after guessing it was the cause.
Motor neurone disease is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease with the death of brain cells which control muscle movements, eventually causing paralysis.
In Griffith, the rate of MND is seven times the national average.
Their mother had died from MND at 57 years old, just three years prior to Tania’s diagnosis, and their grandfather had also passed away the same disease.
There has been an astounding 250 percent increase in MND as a cause of death in Australia in the past 30 years, Professor Dominic Rowe from Macquarie University told The Sunday Project.
That can only be environmental, it can’t be genetic, Rowe said.
International research has linked the neurotoxin BMAA — which is a byproduct of blue-green algae — to MND.
The toxin was recently found in Lake Wyangan.
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It has also been found in numerous other drought-affected NSW waterways, like the Darling River where massive fish kills have recently made headlines.
Residents along the Darling — Australia’s third longest river — have also reported cases of MND.
Back in Griffith, Michelle and Tania use bottled water “for everything” after learning the town has used water from Lake Wyangan for drinking supply during dry spells as recently as 2017.
“We need to help people and we need to find a reason why this is happening,” Michelle told The Sunday Project.
Catch the full interview on The Sunday Project on Sunday 6.30pm.