PRESS RELEASE  Friends of the Earth

A new report by Friends of the Earth has highlighted high levels of chlorine disinfection byproducts in drinking water supplied to several towns in Victoria’s Mallee Region.

The Report is entitled, ‘Grampians Wimmera Mallee Case Study’ http://www.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/GWMWaterReportFinal.pdf

The report found that numerous communities in the Mallee were exposed to levels of Trihalomethanes above World Health Organisation and Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for periods of up to 4 years. This time period was during the end of the Millenium Drought. Chlorine used to treat water reacted with organic molecules and higher salinity to create the byproducts.

Trihalomethanes have been linked with diseases such as bladder cancer. The Australian Guideline for these substances is 3 times higher than similar standards in the United States. Of major concern is the Trihalomethane known as Bromodichloromethane, which was detected at average levels above the World Health Organisation Guideline in seven communities for almost seven years.

The levels for most Trihalomethanes dropped significantly after fresh water was connected to these communities via the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline. However another range of disinfection byproducts, Haloacetic Acids, were detected above guideline levels in the new pipeline water. In some communities average levels of Haloacetic Acids, such as Trichloroacetic Acid were almost 30% higher in the new pipeline water, than levels recommended by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Some of the Haloacetic Acid increases also corresponded with high turbidity and discolouring of water after the disastrous impacts of the January 2011 floods which severely impacted on source water from Lake Bellfield. The Lake Bellfield catchment, which is a source of drinking water for many communities in the Mallee, was also impacted by bushfires in January 2006.  The bushfires stripped much of the protective vegetation in the catchment and made the catchment more vulnerable to landslips, which occurred after the January 2011 floods.

Friends of the Earth is concerned that impacts of climate change which will see extended periods of drought, followed by short bursts of intense rainfall, could lead to similar problems that have beset the Mallee water supplies, in other regions of Australia. Friends of the Earth is concerned about many communities who may be exposed to dangerous levels of disinfection byproducts particularly in times of drought.

Friends of the Earth is also calling for the Australian Guideline levels for chlorine disinfection byproducts to be lowered.

For more information contact Anthony Amis on 9830 6164 or 0425 841 564