Leading The Way

COVER STORY lead update

Leading theway

We need a nationally consistent way of measuring lead and other metals in drinking water supplies. Paul Skelton reports.









C onstruction of the new Perth Children’s Hospital began in 2012. Over the next four years the project, overseen by John Holland Group, went rather well. Then in May 2016, lead was discovered in the drinking water at levels well above the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). Despite several attempted remedies – such as flushing, filtration and phosphate treatments – a test in June 2017 showed an overall 74% compliance rate with the ADWG value for lead. The minimum compliance rate required by the ADWG is 95%. The fallout has been nothing if not spectacular. ‘Lead fear’ swept the state, regularly gracing the cover of local tabloids and leading the news bulletins. The people of Western Australia have had even more conversations about lead than they

Additional factors include sampling and testing methodologies, specifically the flushing and/or stagnation periods prescribed in the tests, and the volume of water extracts tested. Chris Galvin is the managing director of Galvin Engineering. He is joining the push for government to rectify in-field water testing practices across the country. “From the research I’ve done, the Australian Standard applicable to testing in the field is vague on exactly what a person undertaking water testing would need to do in a residential or commercial situation,” Chris says. The Standard is AS/NZS 5667.5:1998 Water quality – Sampling – Guidance on sampling of drinking water and water used for food and beverage processing . “It’s not very prescriptive. Basically, anyone can test water – perhaps misunderstanding the broad

did when the state became the first in Australia to remove the element from petrol in January 2000. And this is fair enough: excessive exposure to lead can result in a wide gamut of ailments – physical and mental. But in the case of the Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH), are people in the West justified in their concerns, or are they howling at nothing? When standards fail Many factors can contribute to the variability of lead in water concentration test results: ∫∫ materials used in a plumbing system; ∫∫ system age and complexity; ∫∫ usage patterns; ∫∫ flow rates; ∫∫ stagnation areas; ∫∫ introduced chemicals; and, ∫∫ water quality fluctuations (pH).

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