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more dirty water

Dear Beagle Editor, A good drop of rain down here in the Bega Valley Shire. Your readers in the south might be interested in our latest media release that is to do with water... dirty water. more dirty water …

Last week the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) again raised the abiding concern of residents & ratepayers over the appalling quality of the shire’s drinking water.

The BVSRRA was overwhelmed with the public response on its Facebook page, with its post reaching nearly 9,000 people, drawing more than 100 likes & a similar number of comments, with the overwhelming sentiments expressed being anger & frustration at the ongoing failure of council & the state government to take specific & meaningful action to address the issue.

In the course of the ensuing public discussion, many residents & ratepayers could not fathom how water of pristine quality extracted from aquifers could wind-up looking like something else when it comes out of their taps, often accompanied by an unpleasant smell & certainly not water that they or their families are willing to drink, regardless of assurances from council that it is “safe” to do so.

In the meantime, notwithstanding suggestions this week that dry weather conditions or low water levels might be responsible for the disgusting liquid that passes for drinking water in many homes & businesses in the Bega Valley, council has not offered any explanation for the absence of a meaningful strategy to provide residents & ratepayers with this most essential of essential services, including a meaningful timetable.

In pursuing an explanation as to the cause of the problem, the BVSRRA identified an article on “brown water” published by Victoria’s South East Water. The opening paragraph from that article states:

“Brown water (water with a brown, yellow or muddy appearance) can be caused by sediment and naturally occurring organic matter in the water main, or may be due to rust from old Galvanised Wrought Iron (GWI) internal piping. Sediment can be cleared by flushing the local water main, while brown water caused by rusting iron piping can be managed by flushing internal taps or seeking advice from a reputable, licensed plumber.”

Sound familiar?

Well, the BVSRRA has been given to understand that a substantial portion of the shire’s water pipe network is made of cast iron, rather than galvanised iron or PVC, acquired by the then council around 50 years ago after allegedly being rejected by a couple of our northern neighboring shires, with the potential contamination of the water possibly being caused by the interaction with the pipes of highly corrosive chemicals, such as fluoride & chlorine, added to the water.

The BVSRRA is also concerned that the old cast iron pipes used to distribute our drinking water were apparently lined with asbestos & as those pipes reach the end of their useful life, the asbestos breaks down & is absorbed into the water.

While the BVSRRA believes that it is important to acknowledge that there appears to be no evidence suggesting that consumption of water containing asbestos can be harmful to our health, the possibility that it might contain a cocktail of chemicals, including chlorine & fluoride, along with asbestos, will do little to calm consumer concerns.

The failure of council & the state government to effectively address water quality issues in the Bega valley Shire is a disgrace & cries out for urgent attention.

At the very least council should be taking the necessary steps to establish precisely what the cause of the problem is, as an essential precursor to working out a solution, in particular as up until now, there seemed to be a consensus that the installation of water filtration equipment would fix the problem.

In recent months, the state government announced the construction of two new bridges in the Eurobodalla Shire at a cost of $300M while, at the same time, announcing a $5M investment in a walking track & bike path in the Bega Valley Shire.

These announcements were made at a time when the state government is reputedly flush with funds from the sale of public assets.

While the BVSRRA does not for a moment suggest that the residents & ratepayers or the Eurobodalla Shire or any other local government area should forego important infrastructure investment by the state government, it does contend that basic infrastructure such as that necessary to provide quality drinking water cannot be ignored.

As long as the provision of basic infrastructure is ignored by council & the state government, residents, ratepayers & visitors to the Bega Valley Shire will be entitled to believe that they are regarded by government as second class citizens.

If our elected representatives continue to convey that impression, they can hardly be surprised by the consequences.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association


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