Drinking Water And Health Issues in South West Victoria

March 14 2013

Media Release

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth has today released a report which investigated drinking water issues in the South West of Victoria between the years 2006 and 2012. The information used in the report was sourced from Freedom of Information requests to two water authorities in the region, Barwon Water and Wannon Water.


Key findings include:

Between September 2007 and July 2008, Hamilton residents were supplied with drinking water which averaged 10 times the guideline limit for Aluminium as specified in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). In July 2008 one reading came in at 95 times over the Guideline limit. Hamilton drinking water breached the ADWG over 100 times between July 2006 and July 2010.

“These levels were quite possibly some of the highest aluminium levels detected in drinking water in the world” said Anthony Amis from Friends of the Earth.

A leading expert in Aluminium, Professor Chris Exley of Bioinorganic Chemistry at The Birchall Centre,  Keele University, Staffordshire, was emailed a copy of the aluminium readings and has stated that the water supplied to Hamilton during some of the time of concern was a “significant health risk” and that Wannon Water “should have warned the public not to drink or even use these waters until the contents of Aluminium were back within acceptable limits”

The chlorine disinfection by-product Bromodichloromethane (BDCM) was detected at six times higher than World Health Organisation Guidelines at Balmoral in September 2007. BDCM levels at Balmoral average double the WHO guideline for 17 months in 2006/7.

The highest average BDCM levels detected over 6 years were at the towns of Coleraine and Sandford. Coleraine recorded 20 breaches to WHO Guidelines over the time frame of the study. Balmoral, Sandford, Glenthompson and Dunkeld all had BDCM averages above WHO Guidelines for longer than 6 months during the study period. Coleraine is still sometimes sourcing BDCM tainted water above WHO Guidelines.

Treated water sourced from the environmentally stressed Moorabool River also appears to be a source of BDCM above WHO Guidelines in the Geelong Region, with Moorabool recording ten breaches to the WHO Guidelines, Meredith six and Lovely Banks one.

“The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has classified BDCM in Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans), possibly leading to diseases such as bladder cancer.  The National Health and Medical Research Council have not reviewed their stance on Trihalomethane's such as BDCM since 1996. Friends of the Earth is pushing for guidelines in Australia for BCDM because under current scenarios water authorities do not have to report publicly singular THM breaches and it is FoE's contention that consumers need to be better informed about potentially carcinogenic compounds found at unsafe levels in their drinking water” said Mr Amis.

“Neither Barwon Water or Wannon Water have made public announcements concerning the public's exposure to BDCM at levels above the World Health Organisation Guidelines” concluded Mr Amis.

For further information contact Anthony Amis 9830 6164 or 0425 841 564

The report can be found here: http://www.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/SWVicWater_0.pdf