Lead levels in Ballarat Drinking Water Alarming

Friends of the Earth (FoE) today expressed alarm at the high levels of lead recorded in Ballarat and district drinking water. FoE conducted a Freedom of Information request with Central Highlands Water earlier in the year after first becoming aware of the issue.

***Press Release June 23 2010***

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth (FoE) today expressed alarm at the high levels of lead recorded in Ballarat and district drinking water. FoE conducted a Freedom of Information request with Central Highlands Water earlier in the year after first becoming aware of the issue.

The Freedom of Information Request reveals that Ballarat and district had 114 positive results for lead in drinking water between January 2005 and March 2010. Eleven samples breached the Australian Drinking Water Health Guideline for lead of 0.01 parts per million.

The highest reading was a sample taken at Gordon in October 2008, which was over six times the safe level for lead. Four of the breaches to the Health Guidelines came from Gordon, two from the CFA training facility at Fiskville, one from Ballarat west bore, one from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Ballarat, one from North Ballarat, one from Cardigan and another lead reading above the Health guidelines from the Goldfields Superpipe in March 2010.

The most positive detections were found at the CFA training facility at Fiskville, at Gordon and at the new Ballarat West bores. The most other detections included North Ballarat, Napoleons, Linton, Ballarat and Magpie/Sebastopol.

Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Anthony Amis said, “It appears that the lead could be coming from old solder in copper pipes and older pipe joints. Water is likely to be corroding the lead and this is ending up in drinking water” Mr Amis said. “Although this doesn't fully explain lead being detected in Ballarat West Bores nor the Goldfields Superpipe.”

Lead can be stored in soft tissue, the kidney, liver, bone marrow and bones. It is a cumulative poison that can affect the central nervous system. Pregnant women and children are most susceptible to lead poisoning. Lead has been linked to cognitive development problems in children.

Mr Amis said “The actual lead levels being consumed by residents could be higher, because Central Highlands Water do their tests after at least 2 minutes of flushing water from the taps. Almost all residents don't flush their taps before use, meaning that potentially higher lead levels could be occurring in drinking water, particuarly if taps aren't used for several hours”.

“Friends of the Earth recommends that if residents are concerned about lead and other toxins in their drinking water they should purchase a quality water filter.”

For more information contact Anthony Amis on (03) 9419 8700