LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News Volume 13 Number 3, May 2013, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editorial Team: Elizabeth O’Brien, Zac Gethin-Damon, Hitesh Lohani and Shristi Lohani

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Rosebery: the 7th Tasmanian town found to have drinking water supplies contaminated with high levels of lead

Media releases and news articles compiled by Isla MacGregor, Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network (TPEHN), Edited by Zac Gethin-Damon, The LEAD Group Inc.

Acknowledgment: TPEHN and THMTT would like to express our sincere gratitude to Lindsay Tuffin, Editor of Tasmaniantimes.com who unfailingly provides our networks with the right to have our views published online in the public interest. With the exception of the ABC (and occasionally Southern Cross TV), who have covered our views on the issues throughout the Rosebery controversy, no print media has given us right of reply or contacted us for fair comment since the release of the DHHS final report in 2010. Thank you Lindsay.


On 31st march 2013 ABC Radio National's Background Briefing broadcast a program titled

Don't Drink the Water

Reporter from Background Briefing Ian Townsend visited the north east of Tasmania to investigate the the background to the five towns,at that time, where drinking water supplies were found to be contaminated with heavy metals by the Ben Lomond Water authority. The five towns are Ringarooma, Avoca, Whitemark on Flinders Island, Pioneer and Royal George. Royal George does not have a reticulated water supply so technically is not the responsibility of the Ben Lomond Water authority. The discovery of arsenic and lead contamination of the St Pauls River had been found in 2010 by Midlands Council and residents in Royal George have been sourcing their water from a Council supplied tank since this time.

Ian interviewed Amber Jones who lives in the town of Ringarooma.  Every day she takes a five litre plastic water container down to the towns communal water tank recently supplied by Ben Lomond Water for the 370 town residents use.

‘It leaks all the way. I get home with about half,’ she says.

‘When there's five drinking it, and then brushing your teeth, and you can imagine like the amount of veggies you have to boil for tea and stuff, we sort of go through a fair bit of water,’ Ms Jones says.

‘You've got to be constantly saying to the kids, "Don't drink the water! Don't drink the water!"' says Ms Jones. ‘If they’re in the bath and they’re playing tea parties or something, and they are trying to drink it, you're like: "Don't drink the water!" Yeah, it’s pretty frustrating.’

Acting CEO Andrew Beswick said '“They're generally lead issues... lead concentrations in the water above Australian Drinking Water Guideline standards,............ Avoca also has a high cadmium level... We’re talking about in the order of two to four times the Australian Drinking Water Guideline standards.’

In fact, a third of Tasmania’s town water schemes do not meet Australian Drinking Water Guideline standards. Last year, nine towns recorded high levels of chemicals or metals. Twenty-two towns are on permanent Boil Water Alert. Another 13 towns were told to temporarily boil their water last year, because of high levels of bacteria.

Rob White, a Professor of Criminology at the University of Tasmania, has been studying the state’s contaminated towns.

‘We’re supposed to be living in a clean, green, pristine state, and what we're doing is boiling our water? Going to a communal water tank? Surely we've got to think down the track that there's got to be something wrong systemically that needs to be addressed.’

Professor White says a lot of the metal contamination is coming from old mines.

‘We have legacy waste. We have heavily, heavily polluted waters in some of our rivers and nothing substantial really is being done in some of these areas,’ he says.

‘We’re now giving the go-ahead to new projects without addressing the old ones, and so why should we trust that the new potential mining projects or forestry projects, which are already proven to contaminate the environment, why should we trust that those aren't going to have their own legacy impacts?'

In the town of Ringarooma, residents say they weren’t told about the lead in the bore water until three months after it appeared at high levels. The bore water had been turned off six weeks after high lead levels were found in late-August, but at the time no one was told why.

The residents are now worried that the lead might have been in the town bore on and off for years, because before 2009 no one was testing the water for heavy metals. It was only after Ben Lomond Water replaced the council water boards that testing for heavy metals started.

‘In Ringarooma, where the lead is in the bore supply, it may simply be from some change in geology in the mineralisation that is naturally in the ground in an area,’ Mr Beswick says. ‘We really do not know. In Avoca, the cadmium levels are coming, we believe, out of the sediment of the South Esk River, which has come down from the various creeks from mining operations that have occurred in the past.’

The link between the contamination and past mining is most obvious in the town of Royal George, also in Tasmania’s northeast, where three years ago the town’s drinking water source, the local river, was found to have arsenic 200 times the allowed drinking water standard and lead 50 times the standard.

Royal George has had its communal water tank for years now. Pat Thomas lives across the road from the tank, and says she’d like a better water supply, ‘where you could turn it on and get some nice pure water’ without worrying about toxic contaminants from mine tailings.

‘I don't think there's many places in Tasmania you can get that now,’ she says. ‘That's a thing of the past.'

It has now been over 9 months since Ben Lomond Water found the lead in the drinking water supplies in Ringarooma back in September 2012. They have not made any public statement about the source of the lead.

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