2013-21: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – E.coli, Cyanobacteria, Algae, Lead, Colour, Iron, pH, Temperature, Turbidity, Haloacetic Acids

Ringarooma (Tasmania) – E.coli

July 14 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 34.5 MPN100/mL

August 11 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 5.1 MPN100/mL

September 15 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 8.6 MPN100/mL

October 13 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 1299.7 MPN100/mL

November 10 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 547.5 MPN100/mL

December 15 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 82 MPN100/mL

January 27 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 13.5 MPN100/mL

February 9 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 56.3 MPN100/mL

March 8 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 35 MPN100/mL

March 30 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 2 MPN100/mL

April 19 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 1 MPN100/mL

April 26 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 4.1 MPN100/mL

May 10 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 38.4 MPN100/mL

May 17 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 2 MPN100/mL

May 17 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 131.4 MPN100/mL

May 24 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 517.2 MPN100/mL

May 31 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 43.2 MPN100/mL

June 15 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 26.2 MPN100/mL

June 15 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 2 MPN100/mL

2016/17: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – 12 E.coli exceedences. Poor microbiological performance can be attributed to a lack of barriers and the susceptibility to changes in quality from the Ringarooma River. The risk to public health is mitigated through the communication of the Permanent BWA to customers.

Escherichia coli should not be detected in any 100 mL sample of drinking water. If detected
in drinking water, immediate action should be taken including investigation of potential
sources of faecal contamination.

“Coliforms are Gram-negative, non-spore-forming, rod-shaped bacteria that are capable of aerobic and facultative anaerobic growth in the presence of bile salts or other surface active agents with similar growth-inhibiting properties. They are found in large numbers in the faeces of humans and other warm-blooded animals, but many species also occur in the environment.

Thermotolerant coliforms are a sub-group of coliforms that are able to grow at 44.5 ± 0.2°C. E. coli is the most common thermotolerant coliform present in faeces and is regarded as the most specific indicator of recent faecal contamination because generally it is not capable of growth in the environment. In contrast, some other thermotolerant coliforms (including strains of Klebsiella, Citrobacter and Enterobacter) are able to grow in the environment and their presence is not necessarily related to faecal contamination. While tests for thermotolerant coliforms can be simpler than for E. coli, E. coli is considered a superior indicator for detecting faecal contamination…” ADWG 2011

Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Cyanobacteria

17/5/2016 Aphanothece sp 160 Cell/mL

Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Algae

17/5/2016 Dictyosphaerium sp 190 Cell/mL

17/5/2016 Oocystis sp 120 Cell/mL

19/4/2016 Sphaerocystis sp 320 Cell/mL

17/5/2016 Total BGA (Confirmed) 160 Cell/mL

Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Lead

2016/17: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Lead 0.0095mg/L (max)

“Ringarooma also recorded levels of lead above the ADWG in February 2014. RTI data showed that Ringarooma averaged 3.58μg/L over the year. DHHS tests averaged almost 4 times that amount, 14μg/L.”

A Snapshot of Tasmanian Non-Microbiological Detections in Drinking Water July 2013-June 2014. Selected Breaches of Australian Drinking Water Guidelines Friends of the Earth Australia

“… 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.

Lead is the most common of the heavy metals and is mined widely throughout the world. It is used in the production of lead acid batteries, solder, alloys, cable sheathing, paint pigments, rust inhibitors, ammunition, glazes and plastic stabilisers. The organo-lead compounds tetramethyl and tetraethyl lead are used extensively as anti-knock and lubricating compounds in gasoline…

Lead can be absorbed by the body through inhalation, ingestion or placental transfer. In adults,
approximately 10% of ingested lead is absorbed but in children this figure can be 4 to 5 times higher. After absorption, the lead is distributed in soft tissue such as the kidney, liver, and bone marrow where it has a biological half-life in adults of less than 40 days, and in skeletal bone where it can persist for 20 to 30 years.

In humans, lead is a cumulative poison that can severely affect the central nervous system. Infants, fetuses and pregnant women are most susceptible. Placental transfer of lead occurs in humans as early as the 12th week of gestation and continues throughout development.

Many epidemiological studies have been carried out on the effects of lead exposure on the intellectual development of children. Although there are some conflicting results, on balance the studies demonstrate that exposure to lead can adversely affect intelligence.

These results are supported by experiments using young primates, where exposure to lead causes significant behavioural and learning difficulties of the same type as those observed in children.

Other adverse effects associated with exposure to high amounts of lead include kidney damage, interference with the production of red blood cells, and interference with the metabolism of calcium needed for bone formation…” ADWG 2011

Ringarooma –  (Tasmania) – Colour

August 25 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 54 PCU

November 19 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 31 PCU

March 22 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 77 PCU

April 19 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 87 PCU

May 17 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 83 PCU

June 15 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 291 PCU

June 21 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour Apparent 17 PCU

2016/17: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Colour 45 HU (max), 25 HU (mean)

“… Colour is generally related to organic content, and while colour derived from natural sources such as humic and fulvic acids is not a health consideration, chlorination of such water can produce a variety of chlorinated organic compounds as by-products (see Section 6.3.2 on disinfection by-products). If the colour is high at the time of disinfection, then the water should be checked for disinfection by-products. It should be noted, however, that low colour at the time of disinfection does not necessarily mean that the concentration of disinfection by-products will be low…” ADWG 2011

Ringarooma – Tasmania – Iron

March 22 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron 663ug/L

March 30 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron 1260ug/L

March 30 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron (Dissolved) 940ug/L

April 19 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron 1310ug/L

April 19 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron (Dissolved) 1150ug/L

May 17 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron 626ug/L

May 17 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Iron (Dissolved) 517ug/L

Based on aesthetic considerations (precipitation of iron from solution and taste),
the concentration of iron in drinking water should not exceed 0.3 mg/L.
No health-based guideline value has been set for iron.

Iron has a taste threshold of about 0.3 mg/L in water, and becomes objectionable above 3 mg/L. High iron concentrations give water an undesirable rust-brown appearance and can cause staining of laundry and plumbing fittings, fouling of ion-exchange softeners, and blockages in irrigation systems. Growths of iron bacteria, which concentrate iron, may cause taste and odour problems and lead to pipe restrictions, blockages and corrosion. ADWG 2011

Ringarooma (Tasmania) – pH (acidic)

Average pH: 2015 July-2016 June: 6.033 pH units

Based on the need to reduce corrosion and encrustation in pipes and fittings, the pH of
drinking water should be between 6.5 and 8.5.

New concrete tanks and cement-mortar lined pipes can significantly increase pH and
a value up to 9.2 may be tolerated, provided monitoring indicates no deterioration in
microbiological quality.

pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of water. It is measured on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, greater than 7 is alkaline, and less than 7 is acidic.

One of the major objectives in controlling pH is to minimise corrosion and encrustation in pipes and fittings. Corrosion can be reduced by the formation of a protective layer of calcium carbonate on the inside of the pipe or fitting, and the formation of this layer is affected by pH, temperature, the availability of calcium (hardness) and carbon dioxide. If the water is too alkaline (above pH 8.5), the rapid deposition and build-up of calcium carbonate that can result may eventually block the pipe.

Ringarooma – Tasmania – Temperature

January 27 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Temperature 23.4C

February 9 2016: Kings Meadows (Tasmania) – Temperature 20.3C


“No guideline is set due to the impracticality of controlling water temperature.
Drinking water temperatures above 20°C may result in an increase in the number of

Temperature is primarily an aesthetic criterion for drinking water. Generally, cool water is more palatable than warm or cold water. In general, consumers will react to a change in water temperature. Complaints are most frequent when the temperature suddenly increases.

The turbidity and colour of filtered water may be indirectly affected by temperature, as low water temperatures tend to decrease the efficiency of water treatment processes by, for instance, affecting floc formation rates and sedimentation efficiency.

Chemical reaction rates increase with temperature, and this can lead to greater corrosion of pipes and fittings in closed systems. Scale formation in hard waters will also be greater at higher temperatures…

Water temperatures in major Australian reticulated supplies range from 10°C to 30°C. In some long, above-ground pipelines, water temperatures up to 45°C may be experienced…

The effectiveness of chlorine as a disinfectant is influenced by the temperature of the water being dosed. Generally higher temperatures result in more effective disinfection at a particular chlorine dose, but this may be counterbalanced by a more rapid loss of chlorine to the atmosphere (AWWA 1990).

Ringarooma – Tasmania – Turbidity

December 15 2015: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Turbidity 12.7 NTU

January 27 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Turbidity 6.15 NTU

February 9 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Turbidity 41.8 NTU

March 8 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Turbidity 16.2 NTU

May 24 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Turbidity 5.03 NTU

June 15 2016: Ringarooma (Tasmania) – Turbidity 5.33 NTU

2016/17: Ringarooma (Turbidity) – 23.5 NTU (max), 1.77 NTU (mean)

Chlorine-resistant pathogen reduction: Where filtration alone is used as the water treatment
process to address identified risks from Cryptosporidium and Giardia, it is essential
that filtration is optimised and consequently the target for the turbidity of water leaving
individual filters should be less than 0.2 NTU, and should not exceed 0.5 NTU at any time
Disinfection: A turbidity of less than 1 NTU is desirable at the time of disinfection with
chlorine unless a higher value can be validated in a specific context.
Aesthetic: Based on aesthetic considerations, the turbidity should not exceed 5 NTU at the
consumer’s tap.

Ringarooma (Tasmania) – HAA’s

30/8/19: Ringarooma (Tasmania) Total Haloacetic Acid (HAA7): 139ug/L – Location DBW51W03

30/8/19: Ringarooma (Tasmania) Total Haloacetic Acid (HAA7): 130ug/L – Location WNW51W01

3/8/20: Ringarooma (Tasmania) Total Haloacetic Acid (HAA7): 127ug/L – Location DBW51W03

3/8/20: Ringarooma (Tasmania) Total Haloacetic Acid (HAA7): 119ug/L – Location WNW51W01

2020/21: Ringarooma (Tasmania) Tirchloroacetic Acid: 106ug/L (max), 0.058ug/L (mean)

Australian Guidelines Trichloroacetic Acid 0.100mg/L, Dichloroacetic Acid 0.100mg/L

“Chloroacetic acids are produced in drinking water as by-products of the reaction between chlorine and naturally occurring humic and fulvic acids. Concentrations reported overseas range up to 0.16mg/L and are typically about half the chloroform concentration. The chloroacetic acids are used commercially as reagents or intermediates in the preparation of a wide variety of chemicals. Monochloroacetic acid can be used as a pre-emergent herbicide, dichloroacetic acid as an ingredient in some pharmaceutical products, and trichloroacetic acid as a herbicide, soil sterilant and antiseptic.” Australian Drinking Water Guidelines – National Health and Medical Research Council…

Don’t drink the water



A third of Tasmania’s town water systems don’t meet national drinking water standards and residents in several towns have to queue at a communal tap. Why has the ‘clean, green’ state got such a problem with contaminated water? Ian Townsend investigates.

In the town of Ringarooma, in Tasmania’s picture-postcard northeast, mother of five Amber Jones makes her daily walk down to the town’s water tank with a five-litre plastic container.

‘It leaks all the way. I get home with about half,’ she says.

The town of 370 people has been told not to drink the town water supply because it’s contaminated with lead, so they have to make do with one tap at a communal tank behind the fire station.

‘When there’s five drinking it, and then brushing your teeth, and you can imagine like the amount of veggies you have to boil for tea and stuff, we sort of go through a fair bit of water,’ Ms Jones says.

Ringarooma’s one of five towns in Tasmania’s northeast where the residents have been given tanks and told not to drink the water because of heavy metals.

‘You’ve got to be constantly saying to the kids, “Don’t drink the water! Don’t drink the water!”‘ says Ms Jones. ‘If they’re in the bath and they’re playing tea parties or something, and they are trying to drink it, you’re like: “Don’t drink the water!” Yeah, it’s pretty frustrating.’

Ben Lomond Water manages the town water schemes in Tasmania’s northeast. Acting CEO Andrew Beswick says a number of small town water supplies in the region have heavy metal issues, including Whitemark on Flinders Island, Pioneer and Ringarooma in the northeast, and Avoca in the Fingal Valley.

‘They’re generally lead issues… lead concentrations in the water above Australian Drinking Water Guideline standards,’ Mr Beswick says. ‘Avoca also has a high cadmium level… We’re talking about in the order of two to four times the Australian Drinking Water Guideline standards.’

Listen to the full investigation on Background Briefing, Sunday 31 March at 8am, Tuesday 2 April at 2pm.

In fact, a third of Tasmania’s town water schemes do not meet Australian Drinking Water Guideline standards. Last year, nine towns recorded high levels of chemicals or metals. Twenty-two towns are on permanent Boil Water Alert. Another 13 towns were told to temporarily boil their water last year, because of high levels of bacteria.

‘Even before the heavy metal issue the risk was very even because of the number of these supplies [that] are not microbiologically sound, in that they have E. coli present so you have to remember to boil the water,’ Mr Beswick says.‘[I]t’s not the standard of supply I think people would expect or deserve.’

Rob White, a Professor of Criminology at the University of Tasmania, has been studying the state’s contaminated towns.

‘We’re supposed to be living in a clean, green, pristine state, and what we’re doing is boiling our water? Going to a communal water tank? Surely we’ve got to think down the track that there’s got to be something wrong systemically that needs to be addressed.’

Professor White says a lot of the metal contamination is coming from old mines.

‘We have legacy waste. We have heavily, heavily polluted waters in some of our rivers and nothing substantial really is being done in some of these areas,’ he says.

‘We’re now giving the go-ahead to new projects without addressing the old ones, and so why should we trust that the new potential mining projects or forestry projects, which are already proven to contaminate the environment, why should we trust that those aren’t going to have their own legacy impacts?’

The most serious legacy for drinking water in Tasmania appears to be lead, a neurotoxin that’s been linked to learning difficulties and behavioural problems in children.

There’s been increasing concern about the effect tiny amounts of lead has on the brains of young children, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say there is no safe level of lead in children.

In the town of Ringarooma, residents say they weren’t told about the lead in the bore water until three months after it appeared at high levels. The bore water had been turned off six weeks after high lead levels were found in late-August, but at the time no one was told why.

The residents are now worried that the lead might have been in the town bore on and off for years, because before 2009 no one was testing the water for heavy metals. It was only after Ben Lomond Water replaced the council water boards that testing for heavy metals started.

‘In Ringarooma, where the lead is in the bore supply, it may simply be from some change in geology in the mineralisation that is naturally in the ground in an area,’ Mr Beswick says. ‘We really do not know. In Avoca, the cadmium levels are coming, we believe, out of the sediment of the South Esk River, which has come down from the various creeks from mining operations that have occurred in the past.’

The link between the contamination and past mining is most obvious in the town of Royal George, also in Tasmania’s northeast, where three years ago the town’s drinking water source, the local river, was found to have arsenic 200 times the allowed drinking water standard and lead 50 times the standard.

Royal George has had its communal water tank for years now. Pat Thomas lives across the road from the tank, and says she’d like a better water supply, ‘where you could turn it on and get some nice pure water’ without worrying about toxic contaminants from mine tailings.

‘I don’t think there’s many places in Tasmania you can get that now,’ she says. ‘That’s a thing of the past.’

Ringarooma Boil Water alerts woes


March 8 2017

They have also had to learn that white clothing, towels and linens are likely to be stained and hot water cylinders and water tanks will need to be cleaned regularly.

These provisions have been the result of a community who has had to learn to adapt after three years of dealing with brown, dirty water delivered via an ageing water infrastructure system to their homes.

The town is one of about 20 in Tasmania that is on current Boil Water alerts issued by Tasmania’s water and sewerage body TasWater. There are also several that are on Do Not Consume alerts.

Residents Jill Singline, Marianne Koster and Kerrie Hales said they had begun to give up on any hope the water would be fixed.

“I’d like to think that I’d be able to turn on the tap and drink a glass of water before I die,” Ms Hales said.

Mrs Singline, 80, has lived at Ringarooma for 56 years and said she has never felt confident in drinking water from the taps in the area.

The state government announced on Tuesday it would take control of the council-governed body next year. Under the plan, the government would bring the water corporation’s capital works expenditure plan forward by five years. The three women said they didn’t blame TasWater for the problem but it had inherited an existing issue.

“We are a country town, they forget about us. They have forgotten about our community,” Ms Hales said.

Post Office owner and long-time water quality advocate David Shaw said in the past three years the water quality had gotten marginally better but it was still a long way to go before it was fixed.

“We own an AirBnB and we have to tell people they can’t drink the water and that the towels are stained from it. We get some feedback about it; this week a lady from Portugal pointed out the towels,” he said.

A treatment plant has been built in the area but has yet to be commissioned by TasWater, which Mr Shaw said would hopefully solve most of the issues.

He said the water corporation had not been in contact with the community to tell them when the treatment plant would come online but the first stage is expected to happen in early 2017.

Mr Shaw said the water quality had been a long-standing issue for the community and the problem was a lack of communication about how it would be fixed.

He said he hoped the government’s announcement that it would take over TasWater next year would bring some change for the town.

Every week, Ringarooma resident Mike Luck packs up his car, drives it to the recreation ground and fills up 60-litres of fresh drinking water.

He has been doing that since he and his family moved to the area from Pioneer about a year ago.

Since the town has been on a Boil Water alert, TasWater installed three tanks at the recreation ground for the community to use for its drinking water.

However in the years since, two of the tanks have been removed and now there is only one.

Mr Luck said the water is used for drinking, washing vegetables and cooking and to brush his teeth.

He said while it was a pain to have to fill up his drinking water every week, he said he felt for the elderly in the community.

“We have a lady who lives next door to us and every week she comes up here to fill up her bottles,” he said.

The woman is unable to stockpile large amounts of water because she can’t carry them to and from her house.

“It’s a pain,” he said.

“But we don’t have a choice really.”

Mr Luck said his family moved to Ringarooma because they wanted a bigger house but said living in the community with no water was like living in the past.

“It’s like living in a community with a well, but it’s 2017,” he said.

He said the worst part was not knowing what the plans were to address the issue.

“They’ve built the treatment plant so you have to wonder what’s happening [to hold it up],” he said.

“It’s been promised to us but we don’t know when it will happen.”

He said he hoped something might happen for the community next year.

Dorset Mayor Greg Howard welcomed the news the government would take over TasWater from next year.

He said the cost of building treatment plants and pipe infrastructure to the communities would have been hard for the council to bear.

The improved water quality standards had meant more towns had to be put on alerts lists than ever before but welcomed the news that action would be taken more quickly with the government takeover.