Upper Hunter Shire’s water is safe to drink

Each year Upper Hunter Shire Council supplies almost 2,500 million litres of clean water to 4400 homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and other public facilities within the Shire’s major towns.

Council conducts daily residual chlorine tests, and weekly microbiological tests are analysed by the NSW State Laboratory and supplied to NSW Health.

“If there was a problem with the water, we would know it,” Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Wayne Bedggood said. “There isn’t.”

General Manager Waid Crockett has said he is disappointed that fear and confusion about the Shire’s water supply has been created from the ABC’s misleading report titled “Drinking water repeatedly contaminated with pathogens in rural NSW towns” released today.

“Our town water is safe to drink and does not contain dangerous pollutants,” Mr Crockett said.

“On the rare occasion there is a problem with water quality, we advise the public and fix it, as we did when there was an algae outbreak in Murrurundi in 2014 and we replaced the water source.

“If there is potential for future problems with septic systems, we actively deal with it as we are doing in Cassilis.”

Council has requested the ABC correct or clarify the following points:

  • MISLEADING: The article claims “In the Upper Hunter, more than 6,000 residents in Scone, Murrurundi and Aberdeen are rated at “very high risk” from dangerous pathogens flowing from an abattoir and septic tanks in the catchment.”
  • TRUE: Water supplies for all three towns have chlorination plants and weekly microbiological testing. There is no dangerous pathogens in the water supply.

Since 2012, Scone’s water has come from Glenbawn Dam taken from 6 – 8 metres below the surface of the dam. Glenbawn Dam is larger than Sydney Harbour and the water quality is “excellent” according to the Department of Primary Industries. Council still has plans in place for a filtration plant in Scone.

Murrurundi water is from the Pages River and when levels drop, it is taken from an infiltration gallery below the riverbed. A Murrurundi water treatment plant is currently being installed and due to be completed before the end of the year.  Council is constructing a $14 million Scone to Murrurundi water pipeline (sourced from Glenbawn Dam) due to be completed in 2020.

Aberdeen’s water is taken from the Hunter River and a small bore. Council plans to also supply water to Aberdeen from Glenbawn in the future.

  • MISLEADING: The article lists Scone as one of one of the “five worst-performing areas in NSW” with repeated “contamination incidents” triggering “potential health risks”
  • FURTHER INFORMATION REQUESTED: Council assumes these “contamination incidents” are from some years ago and have been addressed.  Council is writing to NSW Health to clarify the ABC claims of septic tanks contaminating the catchment in this Shire.

Council has strict rules for approval of new on-site septic management systems and a proactive monitoring program for the Shire’s current 2600 septic systems. They are inspected every 1, 3 or 5 years according to risk factors such as age and distance from water ways. In the last five years, Council has only had to issue one order for repair or replacement where a system had failed.

Waste from the few dozen septic tanks in the Shire that need to be pumped out, is being received at the Aberdeen septic disposal facility with no problems. Scone septic disposal facility was closed in February 2016 at the direction of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Council is investigating options to build or upgrade another septic disposal facility in the Shire.

Cassilis water supply (which is not mentioned in the ABC report) is potentially at risk from old on-site septic systems and therefore Council is building a $2.2million village sewerage system due to be completed in 2020. The full project includes gravity reticulation, pumping station and a sewerage treatment plant thanks to the NSW Government’s Regional Water and Waste Water Program providing $1.22 million grant and Council contributing the rest of the funds.  The introduction of a Cassilis sewerage system will benefit public health and environmental safety and the community and local farmers can be confident of the future security of their water supply.

Daele Healy
Communications Officer

Phone: 02 6540 1110 (Mondays & Wednesdays)

02 6540 1358 (Tuesdays)

Fax: 02 6545 2671
Email: dhealy@upperhunter.nsw.gov.au


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