Article courtesy of ABC News | April 17, 2015 | ABC News | Shared as educational material
A new report on water supplies in Tasmania’s north-east suggests ageing pipes could be the major source of lead contamination.
Researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney conducted water testing in the communities of Pioneer and Ringarooma and found lead levels more than 50 times higher than recommended guidelines.
Researcher Mark Taylor said the studies found that, contrary to previous official arguments, ageing infrastructure was contaminating the water supplies.
“The contamination that you find in the town of Pioneer and elsewhere is not naturally occurring,” he said.
“And that is the favourite argument provided by Government agencies at time, provided by industry when trying to defend against the pollution problem.
“Because if it’s natural you don’t have to do anything about it.”
Pioneer residents have known for decades that their local water supply is contaminated and access to water is restricted across the region.
Since 2012 residents have been warned not to drink the water because of lead and e-coli concerns.
TasWater said it managed water supply systems in line with national drinking water guidelines.
The company is spending $10.5 million on a new treated water system for several north-east towns including Ringarooma.
At Pioneer it is installing free rainwater tanks.
The company said it was not asked to contribute to the Macquarie University research but concerns about water quality should be raised with the state’s health department.
Government under pressure to respond
Greens leader Kim Booth said north-eastern communities deserved to know exactly how much heavy metal their water contains.
“And the [Health] Minister [Michael Ferguson] needs to come out and explain exactly what the Government’s going to do about it,” he said.
“Otherwise we need to have a judicial inquiry into exactly who knew what, when they knew it and why something wasn’t done about it.”
The full report will be presented to a public meeting in Pioneer next week.
It is unclear if TasWater representatives will attend.
A Government spokesman said due to Parliament commitments, Mr Ferguson will be represented at the meeting by environmental health and scientific staff.