Iron the cause of Bega, Tathra brown water woes
Sep 26 2018
Analysis of discoloured tap water samples taken following reports from Bega and Tathra residents and business owners in recent weeks has shown the predominant cause of the discolouration to be iron, council says.
Naturally occurring iron in the groundwater from the Bega Borefield supply source and corrosion of water supply network infrastructure are the known causes of this issue.
Periodically these iron deposits become disturbed and subsequently flow from taps at home, giving the water a rust-brown appearance and sometimes also staining laundry.
However, the council said, iron in drinking water is an aesthetic issue, not a health one.
BVSC Water and Sewerage Services manager Jim Collins said without the existence of a water treatment plant to remove the iron from the water, small solids flow through and deposit in the system, particularly in those areas where water flow is low.
“The water is disinfected, safe to drink and of a high quality in terms of most indicators, however we fully understand that when the water is discoloured it can be unpleasant and annoying for people,” Mr Collins said.
“Impacts on laundry and poor experiences for visitors to holiday accommodation are particularly regrettable and we are continually looking at solutions.
“In the immediate term, we will continue with our water mains flushing program, however the effectiveness of this method is limited by the water pressures and flow available and other cleaning techniques are also needed and used periodically, such as air scouring and ice-pigging.
“We (Council) are also purchasing an in-pipe camera and tapping gear to allow staff to undertake a more detailed inspection of the various pipes and fittings in the area and more effectively prioritise asset renewals.
“The water mains in Tathra, including Andy Poole Drive and Bega Street, will be among the first to be examined in this way.”
Mr Collins said the construction of four water treatment plants remained a primary focus and a reserve balance of $10million has been set aside to help achieve that goal.
“But we won’t be able to deliver these in a timely manner solely through current income sources without excessive borrowings and/or a major increase in residential water and sewer bills.
“As such we have submitted an expression of interest application to the NSW Government Safe and Secure Water Program for the scoping phase of a water treatment plant at South Bega. This will include water treatment options planning and site investigations,” Mr Collins said.
Council keeps a record of all discoloured water complaints so that any particularly troublesome locations can be investigated. People experiencing issues are encouraged to lodge a report on 6499 2222.
What is wrong with the water in the Bega Valley?
THERE are Aussies who don’t know what’s in water they drink and bathe in. All they know is that it’s brown — and has been for years.
BATH time can be a nightmare for many parents but for those living in the Bega Valley, it really is a horror show.
Residents living in the region on NSW’s south coast are often faced with murky water that is as brown as tea.
Mother-of-two Suzanne Noble said her daughter sometimes refused to get in the bath.
“One of our girls wouldn’t even get in the bath, when she saw the water she just started screaming,” she told news.com.au.
Ms Noble grew up in the Bega Valley and regularly returned to visit family in the seaside town of Tathra. She also planned to relocate to the area within the next year.
But having lived in Sydney for five years, Ms Noble couldn’t believe what the locals were putting up with.
“We don’t know what we’re drinking, we just know that it’s brown,” she said.
“I don’t believe we should be drinking this in a first-world country, it shouldn’t be happening.”
Not every household has a problem but for those that deal with the worst of it, the liquid that comes out of the tap looks undrinkable.
“You try to do white washing and it ends up brown because whatever is coming out of the tap is brown,” Ms Noble said.
While the drinking water was a longstanding issue, it had got worse over the past 20 years.
Patience among residents is wearing thin and there are growing calls for the issue be fixed.
Bega Valley Shire Residents and Ratepayers Association vice president, Fraser Buchanan, said it was still not clear what was causing the problem and the local council didn’t seem to have any answers.
“Despite claims the water is drinkable and is OK, council spends a lot of time purging the lines and flushing them out, only for it to last a week and then go back to that state again,” Mr Buchanan told news.com.au.
“There’s no real plan in place as far as I’m aware to fix the problem.”
Mr Buchanan said there were four main sources of water in the area and each one of them had its own issues.
Over the years a number of boiled water alerts have been issued in the northern parts of the shire after heavy storms, in particular for supply from the Brogo-Bermagui system as well as the Bemboka River catchment and Bega-Tathra system.
“They tend to stay that way up to a month or more because of high levels of contamination from things like faecal matter,” he said.
None of the four main sources of water were filtered and Mr Buchanan said there were estimates it could cost about $60 million to install filtration systems.
“That’s big bucks for a small shire which only has a population of about 30,000 people and about 18,000 ratepayers,” he said.
The filtration systems may not even fix the problem, because the issue could actually be the pipes.
In particular, Mr Buchanan said the issue in Bega could be coming from the asbestos-lined cast iron pipes that were installed in the 1960s.
“They were a common pipe in their day but it appears those pipes have been breaking down over the years and are rusting away,” he said.
“They could spend a huge amount of money on a filtration system and then find the water is just as bad at the end of the line because it’s the pipelines.
“Where’s the crap coming from? Council needs to identify the main issue.”
Mr Buchanan said money was being thrown at the $7.8 million redevelopment of the Merimbula Airport and $44 million upgrade of the Eden Port to bring more tourists into the area but the core infrastructure was not in place.
“It’s not good enough when the focus of the area is to grow this place,” he said. “That’s where all the money is going while the core on-the-ground stuff is not being dealt with.
“Unless it is, it’s going to turn people off. This is third-world country stuff.”