Wet and dry: Residents of rural areas north of Dungog have been advised they will not be able to access raw water from Chichester Dam in future, and giardia has been detected in their water this week.HUNTER Water says giardia detected in water in a Chichester Dam outlet does not present any risk despite warning residents in a part of Dungog on Wednesday that itis “not safe to consume”.
Residents in 43 properties north of Dungog were advised by letterto “take appropriate measures to ensure you have a safe drinking water supply” after water samples detectedgiardia, which causes short-term severe diarrhoea and long-term problems if left untreated, and is a particular risk to children.
The parasite Giardia lamblia is found in human and animal faeces and “this detection is expected given the recent wet weather”, Hunter Water chief investment officer Darren Cleary told affected residents. Chichester Dam provides about 40 per cent of water used by Hunter Water customers.
In a statement today the water authority said the giardia was detectedin untreated raw water at the Chichester Dam outlet. The 43 properties received the warning because they are directly connected to asection of the Chichester trunk gravity main which takes untreated water from the dam to various treatment plants, including a plant at Dungog.
“The Dungog water treatment plant is effective at removing giardia and the detection does not present any risk to treated drinking water, which remains safe to drink,” a Hunter Water spokesperson said.
But Country Labor Upper Hunter candidate Martin Rush slammed the water authority’s response and accused Hunter Water of failing to address thelonger-termissue of providing safe drinking water to a group of about 80 Dungog propertiesunable to use Chichester Dam water because of upgraded drinkingwater standards.
“It is astounding that the statutory authority responsible as the provider of last resort for an essential service is saying to its customers, ‘Fend for yourselves –find yourselves some safe drinking water’,” Mr Rush said.
He called on the NSW Government to ensure every resident affected by the giardia notice was contacted by phone and that arrangements were made to provide safe water, including in bottles.
Pipe: The Chichester Dam gravity trunk main which runs through rural areas north of Dungog, but which residents have been advised they can’t use. Giardia was detected in the dam outlet this week.
Mr Rush said the government also needed to step in after affected residents were asked to sign “non-standard supply agreements” with Hunter Water, which healleged disadvantaged residents and relieved the water authority of its obligation to provide potable water.
The water issue also threatened a tourist industry that had developedaround the dam, with some tourist accommodation unable to access a reticulated water supply, he said.
“Residents north of Dungog have been supplied raw water from the Chichester trunk gravity main that conveys water from the dam to the Lower Hunter and various treatment plants. But at some point a change in potable water standards meant that raw water from the gravity main could no longer be supplied to residents,” he said.
Mr Rush alleged Hunter Water advised residents if they didn’t sign new non-standard agreements providing subsidies on tank water for potable purposes, they would be cut off.
While he agreed the cost of providing treated water to the relatively small number of affected residents north of Dungog from the gravity main would be prohibitive, the Hunter Water solution didn’t go far enough, Mr Rush said.
In a statementin April Hunter Water said the cost of building a reticulated scheme to service the affected properties isestimated at $7 million, or $100,000 per property, which Hunter Water described as “not economically viable”
“I’m calling on the government to provide drinking water in the previously supplied volumes to each affected customer by tank water, filtration system or cartage at the same cost that a consumer of the standard agreement pays,” he said.
“The government needs to maintain that equipment at the cost of the standard agreement, pay affected customers’ reasonable associated legal costs, and direct Hunter Water to renegotiate contracts with customers inconsistent with those terms.
“Affected customers should also be able to continue to use the Chichester gravity main water for non-drinkingpurposes.”
Mr Rush said the government also needed to pay Dungog Shire Council a minimum of $150,000 per year for tourism infrastructure to “help offset the negative impact Hunter Water’s decision will have on the shire’s tourism”.
In a statement in responseHunter Water said it had been engaging withproperty owners directly connected to the Chichester trunk gravity main since November, 2016 and had “regularly advised that untreated water is not suitable for drinking and does not meet the n Drinking Water Guidelines,as it may carry pathogens such as bacteria, cryptosporidium and giardia, that could be harmful to human health”.
“Hunter Water has been working with these property owners to provide a suitable drinking water alternative such as a rainwater tank or an onsite treatment option,” the spokesperson said.
“Hunter Water is funding, project managing and delivering a solution for each customer’s needs, which is outside of our Operating Licence requirements. Nineteenproperties now have a suitable drinking water solution in place and work has commenced at a further 23 properties. Hunter Water continues to engage with 43 properties on progressing a solution.”