2009 + 2017/2020 – Lithgow (New South Wales) – Colour, Iron, Manganese, Turbidity, Nickel, Lead, Aluminium

‘It looks like Coke’: NSW residents disgusted by ‘gross’ tap water

Residents of a NSW town are calling for council to take action on murky, black water which “looks like Coke”.

People from Lithgow, in the NSW Central Tablelands, have started a Change.org petition demanding local government “rebuild Lithgow’s failing water delivery system”.

“I am sick to death of throwing away whites even after I have soaked them,” one woman wrote on the petition.

A resident of nearby McKellars Park wrote on Facebook her kids had to skip having a bath due to the dark, murky water in the tub.

Another added her bath was “black this morning, not nice” while another complained her tub water was “milky white”.

Mum Michelle Potts told Nine.com.au she recently ran a bath for her baby daughter but when she came back the water was “gross”.

“It looked like Coke, that is how dark the colour of the water was,” she told the site.

A resident known as Ailette told 2GB the water stained her dog’s dishes.

She added she won’t drink the water either and has started buying it from the supermarket.

Lithgow City Council told Nine.com.au the water doesn’t pose a health risk and its colour is caused by a combination of iron and manganese sediment.

Mayor Ray Thompson said last week Council worked on “the completion of a number of water main and service repairs”.

 “The community has experienced main breaks in the areas of Pillans Road and Wrights Road, as well as service failures in Wentworth Street and Wrights Road,” he said.

“Staff have also been working towards the cleanup of storm damage throughout Lithgow, Clarence and the Wolgan Valley, Capertee Valley and Hartley. Lastly, works have been undertaken to remove problematic plastic wheel stops at the Blast Furnace, Rail Interchange and Wallerawang Bakery car parks.”

Lithgow’s “mine water” supply exceeds drinking water standards (November 2017)


Lithgow on the western edge of the Blue Mountain is currently drinking “mine water” from the Clarence Colliery that sits on Newnes Plateau above the town.  Despite Environment Protection Authority (EPA) assurances, the mine’s environmental monitoring data indicates that nickel and lead levels in the mine water exceed the recommended limits set by Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

“In correspondence the EPA on October 20 stated that the Clarence Colliery’s mine water is considered “good quality drinking water in accordance with the Australian Drinking Water Guideline (ADWG)”.  If the EPA had looked at the mine’s monthly monitoring data it would not have made this claim,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Centennial Coal’s monthly monitoring data shows pollution limits were exceeded in this mine discharge.  A media release from the Lithgow City Council dated 5th October 2017 announcing the use of the mine water also states:

“… The water Clarence supplies to Lithgow is considered, good quality drinking water in accordance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).*”…

“The EPA has apparently just mouthed the words of the council’s media release without a basic check of company monitoring data to confirm the council’s claim,” Mr Muir said.

“The metal pollution limits for the Clarence mine discharges are now stricter than the ADWG limits, but these limits have been exceeded for lead and nickel#  which raises questions about the safety of the town’s water supply”, Mr Muir said.

“The Lithgow should urgently seek a source of raw drinking that is less likely to be contaminated than this mine water discharge.  In the meantime, EPA must rigidly enforce and improve the pollution discharge standards for this mine”, he said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)

* https://council.lithgow.com/clarence-water-transfer-scheme-operational/
# NHMRC’s “Australian Drinking Water Guidelines” are 0.01 mg/L for lead and 0.02 mg/L for nickel have been exceeded by Clarence Colliery mine water.

LDP002 ADWG exceedances since 2017:
Nickel levels – 0.032 mg/L in September 2017;  and 0.31 mg/L in July 2017 [ADWG limit is 0.02 mg/L)
Lead levels – 0.01 mg/L (at ADWG limit) in September 2017; 0.012 mg/L in July 2017; and 0.015 mg/L in February 2017

Toxic waste in town’s drinking water


July 15 2009

DOCTORS in Lithgow have protested against the use of industrial run-off in the town’s drinking water, saying it could be contributing to the area having some of the state’s worst rates of cancer, heart disease and other health problems.

All the town’s general practitioners have signed a letter to the local council saying that plans to increase the amount of recycled industrial water, including water used to flush out a coalmine, could be dangerous. No research has been done on possible links between heavy metals in the water and health effects.

The town began to add water extracted from the nearby Clarence Colliery to its drinking supply in 2002, to help make the town drought-proof. The council wants to nearly double the amount to more than 5 million litres a day.

“Lithgow residents unfortunately suffer from some of the worst health statistics in the state,” the doctors’ letter says. “It is reasonable to suspect that some of these adverse outcomes derive from environmental exposures relating to the region’s industrial activities.”

The NSW Government, which is responsible for issuing and updating pollution licences for coalmines, said the colliery had not exceeded its licence and that the council was in charge of providing healthy drinking water.

The Lithgow City Council maintains the water is safe, pointing out that most monthly quality tests in the past two years have shown no breaches of health guidelines. Drinking guidelines for aluminium content have been exceeded six times and iron once.

“Based on that information, I think we’re doing a very good job of meeting water guidelines,” said the council’s general manager, Roger Bailey.

But doctors told the Herald that residents often complained about the water and many preferred to rely on rainwater tanks. One doctor said he filtered his water at home because of concerns about the recycled industrial water.

Heart disease and cancer rates in Lithgow are 20 per cent above the state average, along with a range of other illnesses. Some of the high rates can be accounted for by smoking and lifestyle factors but the doctors believe pollution may play a role.

Richard Stiles, a GP, said he became concerned after reading a NSW Health bulletin that referred to nickel content in the Lithgow water supply.

It said the content was several times the guidelines for Australian drinking water although it posed no known human health hazard.

“We would really like to know exactly what is in the water, so it would be good to have some transparency on this,” Dr Stiles said.

Another signatory and the chairman of the Lithgow Medical Council, John Dearin, presented the doctors’ concerns to a council meeting on Monday night. “From a public health point of view, it concerns us,” Dr Dearin said.

“I believe we need to look at other sources of groundwater and other ways to augment the water supply instead of using water from the mine.”

Chris Jonkers, of the Lithgow Environment Group, said his home at Blackmans Flat, near Lithgow, was among properties to be put on the town water supply if plans to increase the use of recycled industrial water went ahead.

“I don’t want to give Lithgow a bad reputation but there seems to me to be a correlation between the pretty bad health figures and the use of industrial water,” Mr Jonkers said.

“It seems reasonable that we should be able to get that checked out.”