2006/2023: Esperance (Western Australia). Lead & Nickel in Rainwater Tanks, PFAS, Hardness, Total Dissolved Solids, Silica, Chloride

Esperance (Western Australia) – Lead and Nickel

Esperance Rainwater Samples 2007: Highest Lead Reading 0.68mg/L (27% of samples above ADWG)https://www.dec.wa.gov.au/content/view/3484/1729/

(ADWG/Australian Drinking Water Guideline for Lead is 0.01mg/L)

“Sampling and testing by DEC and the Department of Health (DoH) found that some rainwater tanks in Esperance had lead and nickel levels exceeding Australian Drinking Water Guidelines  and a number of residents had elevated lead levels in their blood. With lead and nickel found in the soil, air, dust and/or rainwater in Esperance, concerns were raised that people and animals spending time in Esperance might be exposed to unacceptable health risks. The shipping of lead through Esperance Port was stopped in March 2007 and a stockpile of lead carbonate was
quarantined until a safe removal plan could be agreed upon.” https://www.dec.wa.gov.au/content/view/3484/1729/

During December 2006 – March 2007, people in Esperance, Western Australia, noticed a significant number of bird deaths in the area. Tests later revealed their bodies contained high levels of lead.

2009?: Esperance (New South Wales) – Lead

“…In Brisbane (Queensland), a study detected lead in 15% of harvested rainwater samples at
concentrations ranging from 0.01 ppm to 10.0 ppm (with one sample having a concentration of 85.0 ppm) [20]. In Sydney, Newcastle (New South Wales) and Esperance (Western Australia),
the situation was similar. Water sampled from rain water tanks in Sydney contained lead up to
0.35 ppm [22], up to 0.16 ppm in Esperance [23], and up to 5.77 ppm in Newcastle [24]. A tank in the town of Karumba in the Shire of Carpentaria, northern Queensland contained up to 100 ppm lead [14].

These results demonstrate a need for future epidemiological studies to determine whether there is a public health risk from these detected levels.”

Lead, Zinc, Copper, and Cadmium Content of Water from South Australian Rainwater Tanks
Chirhakarhula E. Chubaka  ID , Harriet Whiley ID , John W. Edwards and Kirstin E. Ross

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1551; doi:10.3390/ijerph15071551

“Between 2005 and 2007 lead carbonate mined near Wiluna north of Kalgoorlie was exported through the Port of Esperance. The material was handled in bulk, and this resulted in dust containing lead escaping during the container unloading, storage and ship loading processes, which led to contamination of areas in and around the Esperance town site.

In December 2006 the Esperance community reported a large number of dead birds around the town. Subsequent testing showed the dead birds had high levels of lead in their bodies, and testing of rainwater tanks showed that many of those tanks had levels of lead and nickel exceeding Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

The Department of Health subsequently carried out the largest blood lead survey ever conducted in Western Australia. Of those tested 33 had blood lead levels in excess of the internationally recognised health guidelines for lead as published by the World Health Organisation. Many of these were children.”

Source: WA Department of Transport


Lead Australian Drinking Water Guideline 0.01mg/L

“… Lead can be present in drinking water as a result of dissolution from natural sources, or from household plumbing systems containing lead. These may include lead in pipes, or in solder used to seal joints. The amount of lead dissolved will depend on a number of factors including pH, water hardness and the standing time of the water.

Water testing to commence after PFAS detection


May 30 2019

A groundwater bore in the town centre has been taken offline after low levels of per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances were detected during testing of the drinking water supply.

The fluorine-containing chemicals, also known as PFAS, were used in common household products and are often present in soils, surface water and groundwater in urban areas.

According to the Water Corporation, testing was undertaken in Esperance in February as part of a statewide PFAS monitoring program.

While the tests found very low levels of PFAS in three of 31 groundwater bores, the fourth bore on Hammersley Street was taken offline in March after the level reached 0.087.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines indicate PFAS levels should not exceed 0.07 micrograms per litre.

A second test in April returned a reading of 0.13 micrograms per litre.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has confirmed it is considering a number of potential sources, but there was insufficient information to determine the origin of the PFAS.

As a precaution, the department has confirmed it will begin testing private bores in the suburbs of Nulsen and Sinclair as early as next week.

The investigation area encompassed properties within a 500 metre radius of the Hammersley Street bore, bounded by Sims Street, Kalgoorlie Street, Harbour Road, Brazier Street, Jane Street, Coleman Street, Gull Street and Parsons Street.

The department’s director general Mike Rowe called on the community for assistance with its groundwater investigation to identify private bores.

“The samples will be analysed by an accredited laboratory,” Mr Rowe said.

“The results will help inform our investigation and will be shared with the bore owner/user.

“We want to ensure bore water in the area is safe for non-potable uses-like watering gardens.”

Corporation water quality manager Rachael Miller said there would be no interruption to the water supply and that the organisation would continue to monitor the town’s water supply scheme.

Department of Health Water Unit’s managing scientist Richard Theobald assured residents the Department of Health takes the quality of drinking water very seriously.

“Throughout Western Australia, there are a number of processes in place to ensure the safety of our drinking water,” he said.

“Drinking water in Esperance, supplied through the Water Corporation, is regularly tested to ensure it meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and is safe to drink.”

The department assured residents that the drinking water continues to be safe to drink and meets the national guidelines.

A Shire of Esperance spokesperson said the shire would not be making any comment at this time but confirmed it was currently assisting with the investigation.

In light of the findings, the Department of Health has reminded private bore owners that untested and untreated bore water should never be used for drinking, food preparation or filling swimming pools, and children should not play under bore water sprinklers.

Esperance – Western Australia – Hardness

2007/08: Esperance (Western Australia) – Hardness 358mg/L (Highest Detection Only)

2008/09: Esperance (Western Australia) – Hardness 360mg/L (max), 343mg/L (mean)

2009/10: Esperance (Western Australia) – Hardness 350mg/L (max)

2010/11 Esperance (Western Australia) Hardness 360mg/L (max), 346mg/L (mean)

2011/12 Esperance (Western Australia) Hardness 380mg/L (max), 355mg/L (mean)

2013/14 Esperance  (Western Australia) Hardness 370mg/L (max), 359mg/L (mean)

2018/19: Esperance (Western Australia) Hardness 370mg/L (max), 351mg/L (mean)

2019/20: Esperance (Western Australia) Hardness 370mg/L (max), 351mg/L (mean)

2020/23: Esperance (Western Australia) Hardness 370mg/L (max), 349mg/L (mean)


“To minimise undesirable build‑up of scale in hot water systems, total hardness (as calcium
carbonate) in drinking water should not exceed 200 mg/L.

Hard water requires more soap than soft water to obtain a lather. It can also cause scale to form on hot water pipes and fittings. Hardness is caused primarily by the presence of calcium and magnesium ions, although other cations such as strontium, iron, manganese and barium can also contribute.”

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

Esperance – Western Australia – Total Dissolved Solids

2007/08: Esperance (Western Australia) – Total Dissolved Solids 813 mg/L (Maximum Level)

2008/09: Esperance (Western Australia) – Total Dissolved Solids 839 mg/L (max), 798mg/L (mean)

2009/10: Esperance (Western Australia) – Total Dissolved Solids 842 mg/L (max)

2010/11 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 888mg/L (max), 836mg/L (mean)

2011/12 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 895mg/L (max), 844mg/L (mean)

2013/14 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids  875mg/L (max), 844mg/L (mean)

2014/15 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 859mg/L (max), 819mg/L (mean)

2015/16 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 888mg/L (max), 831mg/L (mean)

2016/17 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 850mg/L (max), 797mg/L (mean)

2017/18 Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 900mg/L (max), 805mg/L (mean)

2018/19: Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 856mg/L (max), 821mg/L (mean)

2019/20: Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 914mg/L (max), 864mg/L (mean)

2022/23: Esperance (Western Australia) Total Dissolved Solids 858mg/L (max), 823mg/L (mean)


“No specific health guideline value is provided for total dissolved solids (TDS), as there are no
health effects directly attributable to TDS. However for good palatability total dissolved solids
in drinking water should not exceed 600 mg/L.

Total dissolved solids (TDS) consist of inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water. Clay particles, colloidal iron and manganese oxides and silica, fine enough to pass through a 0.45 micron filter membrane can also contribute to total dissolved solids.

Total dissolved solids comprise: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfate, bicarbonate, carbonate, silica, organic matter, fluoride, iron, manganese, nitrate, nitrite and phosphates…” Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

2017/18 – Esperance (Western Australia) – Silica

2017/18 Esperance (Western Australia) Silica 115mg/L (max), 107.9mg/L (mean) (listed as Silicon in Water Corporation Water Quality Report 2017-18)

To minimise an undesirable scale build up on surfaces, silica (SiO2) within drinking waters should not exceed 80 mg/L.
Silica present in water is usually referred to as amorphous silica (i.e. lacking any crystalline structure). When silica is dissolved within water it forms monosilicic acid:
SiO2 + 2H2O à Si(OH)4
When the concentrations of monosilicic acid increase, polymerisation of the silica occurs, forming polysilicic acids followed by formation of colloidal silica. Monosilicic acid and polysilicic acids are the forms of silica analysed when determining dissolved silica content.
The deposition of silica from solutions can occur via various mechanisms. The deposition of silica that can cause the most problems for the water industry is via silica’s ability to deposit on solid surfaces that have hydroxyl (OH) groups present. Surfaces that commonly have hydroxyl groups present are glass and metallic surfaces. For example, dissolved silica will react with the surfaces of glass and begin to form a white precipitate. The silica forms silicates on the surface, resulting in silica build-up. In cases where customer complaints occur due to scale build-up, water hardness and silica concentrations should be investigated to determine the cause.
Silica can be a problem in water treatment due to its ability to cause fouling of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes (Sheikholeslami and Tan, 1999, Ning 2002, Sahachaiyunta and Sheikholeslami 2002). This occurs when the dissolved silica of the concentrate becomes super-saturated, causing silicates to form in the presence of metals, and these deposit on the membrane surface. The silicate then dehydrates, forming hard layers on the membrane that reduce the effectiveness of the process… 2011 ADWG

Esperance (Western Australia) – Chloride

2019/20: Esperance Chloride 260mg/L (max), 231.9mg/L (mean)

“Chloride is present in natural waters from the dissolution of salt deposits, and contamination from effluent disposal. Sodium chloride is widely used in the production of industrial chemicals such as caustic soda, chlorine, and sodium chlorite and hypochlorite. Potassium chloride is used in the production of fertilisers.

The taste threshold of chloride in water is dependent on the associated cation but is in the range 200–300 mg/L. The chloride content of water can affect corrosion of pipes and fittings. It can also affect the solubility of metal ions.

In surface water, the concentration of chloride is usually less than 100 mg/L and frequently below 10 mg/L. Groundwater can have higher concentrations, particularly if there is salt water intrusion.

Based on aesthetic considerations, the chloride concentration in drinking water should not exceed 250 mg/L.

No health-based guideline value is proposed for chloride.” 2011 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

Health concerns regarding the local water


Dec 21 2012

LONG TERM Esperance residents have expressed health concerns regarding the local water supply.

Joyce Pearce, a resident for 40 years, and Kayleen Freeman, who has lived in Esperance intermittently for 50 years, said that the vast majority of residents purchase bottled water or source rainwater instead of drinking the local water supply, due to its smell and taste.

“I refuse to drink the town water and source it from Dalyup instead,” Mrs Pearce said.

“It’s not so much the unpleasant smell and taste that bother me, it’s the fact that chlorine, calgon and fluoride are added to the water and I worry what effect these chemicals could have on my health.

“I believe that fluoride dulls the mind and creates apathy, which is why a former United Kingdom Prime Minister famously suggested adding more of the chemical to Ireland’s water supply.”

Mrs Freeman completed a Curtin University research study into Esperance water in 1999 and said she became ‘alarmed’ at her findings.

“As part of my study, I researched the addition of fluoride to the Esperance water supply with the approval of the Esperance Water Supply Department,” Mrs Freeman said.

Water Corporation Regional Manager Hugh Lavery said that the water supplied in Esperance meets all health-related criteria set out in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

“We are required to add fluoride in accordance with the Flouridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1966, which is administered by the Department of Health,” Mr Lavery said.

He also said that calgon is added to the water supply to reduce scale build up in hot water systems and electrical appliances, which occurs due to the level of hardness of water in the area.

“Due to the hydrogeology of the borefield from which the Esperance drinking water is drawn, there are elevated levels of salinity and hardness which affect the aesthetic characteristics of the water.

“Reducing these levels requires complex and expensive water treatment, which currently does not form part of the Corporation’s capital investment program … which is prioritised across the state with priority to ensuring provisions for growth, drinking water quality and meeting regulatory standards.”

Minister for Water Bill Marmion released the Esperance Water Reserve drinking water source protection plan on October 31, which he said will “protect the high quality of Esperance drinking water.”

When asked if he had tasted Esperance drinking water, Minister Marmion said that he had drunk the town water on numerous occasions.

“I understand some of the community are concerned about the taste of the water,” he said.

“However, I can assure residents that the Water Corporation places the highest priority on the provision of safe drinking water and the water supplied in Esperance meets all health-related criteria as set out in Australian Drinking Water Guidelines