Uralla arsenic: NSW Health tests reveal arsenic levels as high as 12 times Australian drinking limit | The Northern Daily Leader


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ARSENIC levels in Uralla’s town water supply have tested up to 12 times higher than the Australian drinking water limit. NSW Health Forensic and Analytical Science Service test results reveal arsenic toxicity had been as high as 0.122 milligrams per litre in one part of Kentucky Creek. Australian Drinking Water Guidelines recommend arsenic levels should be below 0.01mg per litre. Uralla Shire Council maintains the concentration of arsenic in the treated supply of drinking water is 0.04 to 0.05mg per litre. Fed up residents have started a petition to take the council to task on what they say is a lack of action on the crisis. It’s spearheaded by Lisa Kellehar, who said none of the community’s questions posed to the council at a meeting in January have been answered. “Not one, they said they would have those answers to us in writing in 10 business days,” she said. “There is nothing that will get answered and they don’t care. They walk past you as if you’re nothing in the street. “A number of people who have written besides me they haven’t responded to and it’s making people angrier, then we just go home to our bottled water.” The Leader asked the council why arsenic levels had tested higher than 0.05mg per litre in some parts of the river. Uralla’s infrastructure director Terence Seymor said the higher results were typically in the raw water. “The treatment processes at the plant remove “some” of the arsenic present in the raw water,” he said. The council issued a do not drink alert for the treated supply in December after high levels of arsenic were discovered in November. There’s no explanation for why the council tested in November ahead of its schedule. Granular activated carbon filters needed to remove the arsenic still haven’t been ordered a month into the town being forced onto bottled water. Neither have sand filters for water treatment that were approved by the council in October 2018. Uralla Shire Council general manager David Aber said the feeling in the community is one of “resigned acceptance”. “There’s a bit of hysteria around but if I keep drinking the water as it is I will die before I get the toxicity at these levels,” he said. The council is still undertaking testing to fully understand the source of the arsenic poisoning. Mr Aber said the arsenic levels are below 0.05mg per litre and its safe to shower and wash with. “What concerns us is we need to look for a permanent solution, Pandora’s box has been opened and we may have to live with arsenic for a while.” The state government provides bottled water at a cost of $5000 a day. Residents report 600ml bottles have previously run out and elderly people have struggled to lift the 10L bottles. With no emergency water plan in place, Mr Aber said the council needs to review its Drought Management Plan. He expects funds for the upgraded filtration works to be approved soon. Read also: “We can’t order them until we get the approval for funding,” he said. “I put out an alert for 100 days and there’s probably two-and-a-half months to go until we complete the upgrade. “We have every assurance we will get that straight away.” At the moment the council tests the water almost daily. Want more local news? Subscribe to the Leader to read it here first

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