Australian Town Switches to Bottled Water After Arsenic Contamination

Dec. 20, 2019

Uralla, Australia residents are using bottled water after high levels of arsenic were found in the water supply. 

Uralla, a town in Australia, found high levels of arsenic contamination in its water supply after a drought, forcing the population of 2,700 to use bottled water.

Uralla Shire Council warned residents not to drink the town's water after arsenic had been detected in November at the level of 0.04 to 0.05 milligrams per litre, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. The guideline limit is 0.01 milligrams per litre. 

"At levels much higher than the levels found in Uralla's drinking water, arsenic can cause acute gastrointestinal and neurological issues," according to a statement from the council. "Exposure over a long period at much higher levels than those discovered can also cause skin discolouration and is linked to several types of cancer."

Water levels in the Kentucky Creek Dam have dropped to less than 40% of capacity, which is its lowest ever level, according to member for Northern Tablelands and New South Wales Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall.

Marshall contends the low levels disturbed silt, which contains the arsenic.

"The current water treatment plant is capable of removing arsenic from the water and just needs to be tweaked to do that," said Marshall. "This is probably a very timely reminder to other councils...not just to focus on the amount of water you have left, but to be monitoring it on a regular basis for water quality. This could potentially be occurring in other communities and this is a wake up call for other councils to get their water properly tested."

The state government is purchasing 40,000 litres of bottled water daily to supply the town, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

"A person would have to have been drinking arsenic in the water at this level for years to have any adverse effects,” said Marshall. “The best case scenario is that residents will be on bottled water for days, the worst case scenario, weeks, but this is not going to be something that is long-term, it is something that is going to be resolved in the short to medium-term."

The council has advised residents to use bottled water in the meantime. 

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