Improving Water Quality in Australian Schools and Hospitals

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Incidences of elevated lead levels in drinking water

In 2014, 100,000 residents in Flint, Michigan, USA, received drinking water with elevated levels of lead. It was discovered that the water supply had become contaminated with lead that had leached from the ageing plumbing pipe infrastructure. The corrosion of the pipework occurred due to a change in the water source and the failure to use corrosion control measures. 8 In Australia over the last few years, there has been several high-profile cases of lead contamination being found in our drinking water. A study by Macquarie University in 2016, found that of 212 first draw drinking water samples taken from homes in New South Wales, 8% exceeded the lead levels set in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). 9 Furthermore, they found that the household plumbing fittings, taps, and pipework were a significant source of drinking water lead contamination. They recommended that products for use in contact with drinking water should be manufactured free from lead. 2 In Western Australia, the opening of the $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH)

was delayed for 2½ years until March 2018, with one of the reasons cited being elevated lead levels in the building’s water. The lead was alleged to have leached from plumbing fittings and valves inside the hospital due to corrosion resulting from multiple flushes of the system using high chlorine doses. 10 Around this time there were other high profile issues involving lead in water such as the closure of several Perth schools and parks, and media reports surrounding the Perth’s Optus Stadium in 2018. Plumbing products were seen as one of the potential sources of high lead levels in the water. The products deemed to be at fault at PCH and the Stadium were replaced with lead free alternatives. In 2018, Geelong Council in Victoria closed down the drinking fountains in several parks over concerns around high levels of lead being found in the water. In May 2019, the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) changed its Building Quality Standards Handbook to only allow the use of lead-free or lead-safe tapware and piping systems in government schools. 11

NEW SOUTH WALES STUDY FOUND OF HOMES TESTED HAD LEAD LEVELS IN WATER 8% EXCEEDING ADWG

VICTORIAN SCHOOL BUILDING AUTHORITY ONLY ALLOW LEAD-FREE OR LEAD-SAFE TAPWARE AND PIPING SYSTEM

OPENING OF THE $1.2 BILLION PERTH CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL WAS DELAYED FOR 2½ YEARS

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