2012/14 – Tjuntjuntjara (Western Australia) – Uranium
Monitoring for uranium in water supplies is happening at five communities where uranium levels are high. Uranium leaches naturally from soils, rocks and natural deposits, but is also released through mining processes. It is carcinogenic and high concentrations can cause kidney inflammation.
In the last two years, three communities have exceeded the safe limit of 0.017 mg/L about half the time, while Tjuntjuntjara in the Goldfields failed 18 out of 22 tests. Some of these results were up to double the safe level. To manage this, water from several bores is blended to achieve acceptable uranium levels. Since October 2014, there has been fortnightly testing at Tjuntjuntjara to better understand the raw water supply.
Western Australian Auditor General’s Report – Delivering Essential Services to Remote Aboriginal Communities – May 2015
Uranium (Information Sourced From 2011 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines)
“Based on health considerations, the concentration of uranium in drinking water should not exceed 0.017 mg/L.”
2012/14 – Tjuntjanjara (Western Australia) – Nitrate
2012/14: Tjuntjanjara (Western Australia) – Nitrate Levels: ~40mg/L-~80mg/L
One in five communities exceeded safe levels for nitrates or uranium
The most significant chemical issues for water quality come from nitrates and uranium, which occur naturally and are common in the Goldfields and Pilbara. Excessive nitrates in the diet reduce blood’s ability to carry oxygen. In infants, this can cause the potentially life-threatening Blue Baby Syndrome, where the skin takes on a bluish colour and the child has trouble breathing. Housing provides bottled water for infants under three months in communities with high nitrates. Long term solutions would likely include asset replacements or upgrades or finding new water sources, or a combination of these.
In 2013-14, fourteen of 84 communities in the Program recorded nitrates above the safe health level for bottle-fed babies under three months. Two communities had readings above the standard for adults (Figure 5).
Child Heath Levels Nitrate: 50mg/L. Adult Heath Levels Nitrate: 100mg/L