Many Narrabri residents took the opportunity recently to find out what’s in their drinking water and are probably very glad they did.
Some recorded unacceptably high concentrations of lead in their rainwater.
Macquarie University researcher Paul Harvey came to Narrabri in July to take samples from rainwater tanks, bores, dams and town supplies.
Lead and copper are two things you ‘absolutely don’t want too much of’ in your water, said Mr Harvey.
“I almost fell off my chair when I saw the data on the amount of lead in the water from some Narrabri district rainwater tanks” he said.
Paul Harvey has been undertaking a statewide survey of regional drinking water, testing tanks, bores and town supplies.
“Town and property supplies I tested are great, no dramas there”Paul adds.
“But the rain water tank water supplies and some of the bore water is not so good” said Mr Harvey.
“As an example, one of the highest lead values I found was from a rainwater tank - 89 micrograms per litre” Paul said.
“The guideline is 10 micrograms.
“I suspect lead flashing on the roof, or a combination of lead flashing, lead paint or lead screws.
“There was quite a high copper concentration correlating to that as well” he said.
“I test for arsenic, copper, lead and manganese. Lead and copper are the two I was suspecting would be an issue, and the samples showed lead is right up there.
“Twelve percent of the samples are over the 10 micrograms per litre guidelines, which is pretty high.
“I have written to all the study participants with varied advice depending on their situation” said Paul.
TESTERS: Macquarie University researchers Marek Rouillon and Paul Harvey collect Narrabri district water samples in July.
“But basically if you have a really high concentration you should stop using that water for drinking and find an alternative source until you can resolve the problem with the lead and the copper.
“There were a couple of elevated levels in some bore water supplies, but I don’t think that is being drawn up from the aquifer. I think they are slightly older bores and have had a pipe casing which has lead components.
“I have seen that before when there is an elevated concentration and I think that given some of the bore samples have been really clean and then some quite high, I would be quite confident that the aquifer is really clean and the infrastructure that is bringing the water up is the problem.”
Paul may come back to Narrabri for further testing, and is virtually guaranteed a much higher level of interest on a return visit.
“I have had inquiries from Tamworth so I could make another trip across in the near future, but I would have to work out how to get more samples transported back to Sydney” he said.
“I am happy to collect the samples, but I just need a way of getting them back to the laboratory if there are a lot of them
“Meanwhile, in terms of a way forward, my first advice to people whose samples have shown a high concentration is to stop drinking that water and then try and identify the source, probably roof catchment or plumbing.
“Lead flashing is pretty obvious, but the metallic, soft malleable material you see on the roof-line stands out like a sore thumb when you start looking for it.
“Try and avoid drinking water off those catchments and try and avoid painted roof catchments, which are a significant source of all sorts of things, not only lead, but copper or mercury sometimes.”
The Narrabri water data will ultimately go into a larger report covering NSW.