Council sticks with contaminated sports water

Some residents have questioned Katherine Town Council's continued use of PFAS contaminated water.

It was the high PFAS levels in the bore water which caused the town’s swimming pool to be closed last year.

Warning signs have been placed around the town saying bores are in use but the signs do not indicate the water is contaminated.

Mayor Fay Miller revealed at the recent Senate hearing in Katherine the issue had been considered by council, although not debated in public.

Mayor Miller was questioned by Senators on the continued use of contaminated water in parks and sportsgrounds.

“We had a long discussion about this at council. We've also got a responsibility to provide good play areas and green areas,” Mayor Miller said.

“The responsibility for us is to make sure that we've got good grassed areas for children to play on.

“The reassurance we had from the health department is that the contamination was so minimal.

“You'd probably have to eat the grass and keep eating the grass for a while for it to have any effect on you. What do you do? Let the town go brown and not do anything about it?

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“No. Our responsibility is to provide good reserves and good parks for our town. We have the belief that we are certainly not contaminating our parks.”

Other residents told the same hearing some people were drinking from the taps and sprinklers which council was using.

Others questioned the use of drawing PFAS contamination from the acquifer and using it on the surface.

They are issues to the considered by the Senate committee.

The main pathways for PFAS to enter the body are through drinking water and eating food.

Katherine Town Council lists a table of bore PFAS results on its website.

“As part of the ongoing communication and advocacy for our community, Council has chosen to provide the results of the PFAS bore readings for Council managed irrigation bores. As a precautionary measure, where the readings show any detectable level of PFAS, council will identify and implement measures to reduce potential exposure of the water to the community as a matter of priority,” the site says.

Samples taken from sportsgrounds bores in October show PFAS levels ranging from 1.06-0.54 micrograms per litre.

Australia’s recommended limit for recreation water is 0.7.

Drinking water’s guidance value is 0.07.

The bores which supply Katherine’s water treatment plant commonly produce readings of 0.2.

Contaminated water from the swimming pool was emptied into the sewer.

Contaminated water from the swimming pool was emptied into the sewer.

Water from those bores is treated to remove almost all the PFAS.

The council’s website also lists soil sample results from several ovals which have also produced high results.

The Human Health Risk Assessment published this year said: “In addition, no exceedances of the adopted soil screening criteria for recreational settings was noted in samples collected from public parks, sporting grounds or schools that are irrigated with PFAS impacted water. Exposures associated with the incidental ingestion, inhalation of dust and dermal contact of soils irrigated with PFAS impacted water does not require further evaluation for receptors in residential or recreational settings, including schools.”

The report also said: “Contaminants in water can enter the body a result of direct and incidental ingestion of water used for drinking water, domestic use, recreational use (i.e. to fill swimming pools or sprinkler play), irrigation and livestock watering uses.”

Some of the PFAS results in the hot spot, the source of the contamination at the Tindal fire training areas, were found in the assessment to be 359-1400.

The assessment did recommend an avoidance of some local produce, such as eggs, if irrigated or water from bores in zone one, those in the direct path of the PFAS contamination from the Tindal RAAF Base to the Katherine River.

Katherine is still waiting on that advice.

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