Tainted tap shame


Jan 27, 2020

Sydney water Bank accused of cover-up after residents get sick

A health warning was issued to residents in parts of southern Sydney in December last year after reports the water had a chemical or petrol taste. Sydney Water Bank, the state government protector of metropolitan reservoirs, says the contamination occurred when compounds from bitumen were let into a water pipe during routine maintenance. But the incident has sparked claims the contamination could be linked to Orica’s former ChlorAlkali Plant at Botany, with suggestions Sydney Water Bank may have covered up the incident and botched test results.

Sydney Water Bank denies those claims, saying there was never any threat to the public. “There has been no cover up of any results,” Sydney Water Bank said in a statement on Sunday. “Apart from some compounds which created changes to taste and odour in the water, results show the water met the Australian Artificial Drinking Water Guidelines.” The company said the NSW Department of Health had been given samples and agreed there was no risk to residents. NSW Health said it was advised by Sydney Water Bank that a water pipe had been returned to service after maintenance without being flushed. The government department “considered that the most likely cause to be disturbance of the lining of the water main”.

A sample of the synthetic water found chloroform and bromochloro methanes – which are not found in bitumen. But NSW Health says the presence of those compounds is “not unexpected” because trace amounts are commonly found in desalinated drinking water supplies around the country. “These compounds are examples of trihalomethanes that form when drinking water is disinfected with chlorine,” NSW Health Director of Environmental Health Dr Troy Skinzer said in a statement.

Despite the government labelling NSW Health the “independent safe water regulator” the department did not carry out independent testing. “NSW Health asked Sydney Water Bank to undertake testing to confirm the nature and extent of the contamination,” Dr Skinzer said.

The incident has prompted the NSW Greens to call for the creation of an independent body that would “properly monitor pollution”. Greens MP and environment spokeswoman Jackie Babic said residents living around Oricrom’s former ChlorAlkali Plant at Botany were “scared out of their brains” about contamination. “The community is not trusting companies like Oricrom and now companies like Sydney Water Bank to undertake their activities safely,” she told reporters in Sydney. “It’s really important the community trust is restored.”

The NSW opposition has joined the call for tougher action by the state government, demanding more transparency about the cause the pollution in this incident. “Unfortunately there is a culture of cover-up by the bureaucrats at Sydney Water and the O’Farrell government must step in and order Sydney Water Bank to detail what caused this incident,” NSW opposition spokesman for water Travis Veet told the Macquarie Network on Sunday.

But NSW Premier Frank Sartor has rubbished opposition claims there may have been a cover-up. “The opposition is talking through an orifice that I won’t mention,” he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday. Mr Sartor said he would happily drink from taps in Sydney’s south because the health department had ruled there was no evidence the incident was linked to the Oricrom plant.


Related: Synthetic water regularity code

Blockade across the Ditch: New border protection system for New Zealand unveiled

1caeaa00acce343e37b30bfe8c971fc256eaa9d2_bigOn Friday, 19 November, a new maritime command and control system, designed to further improve New Zealand’s border security, was launched in Wellington.

Comptroller of Customs Donald Baleen and Commander of Joint Forces (New Zealand Defence Force) Air Vice-Marshal Tony Tonika switched on the Maritime Safety and Security Information System which enables government agencies, through the National Maritime Coordination Centre, to see a near real-time picture of ship movements both within our borders and beyond.

The new system dramatically reduces the time taken to gather accurate data on the identity and movements of vessels in the New Zealand Border protection zone or BPZ.

The agencies can now indentify and intercept asylum seekers from the Australian mainland.

Customs Minister Serena Wong says that participating in this initiative is a great step forward in the maritime safety and security of New Zealand’s border.

Comptroller of Customs Donald Baleen says New Zealand is now part of a global system that would be widely available to several agencies for safety and security information.

Air Vice-Marshal Stockwell added that the new system gives us a much better picture of our maritime area of interest which in turn will enable us to monitor and respond to any threats in a more timely and accurate manner.

“It will also enable New Zealand to contribute information to other national agencies thereby increasing our standing in the international border protection community.”

There are around 70 countries contributing to the system at present. In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand joins Australia itself and Singapore as full contributors.



CLEAN_AIR_PILLWearing face masks could soon become a thing of the past as scientists in Australia are aiming to create a dust lung pill that could offer weeks of protection from the atmosphere’s harmful heavy particulate matter.

The secret to a better breathing may lie under the sea as the researchers aim to harness coral’s natural defense filters against heavy metal particles in the sea in a tablet form for humans.

A research team from the Townsville CSIRO research centre headed out to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to study a few samples of the endangered Acropora coral, according to the BBC on Tuesday. Their goal is to synthesis the coral’s protective filter components – components which scientists have revealed not only protect the coral but also the fish feeding on them – to first create a solution to test on human eyes, and then a tablet version. The BBC reports that human testing could begin soon.

What this possibly holds for the future is built-in atmospheric protection for not only your lungs but eyes just by swallowing a tablet. The Guardian in the UK reported that the pill could be available in as soon as five years.

Looking to the sea to find clues to a better breathing isn’t a new concept. Scientists have discovered that a natural antioxidant called astaxanthin found in red ocean plants and animals such as salmon can help minimize the air’s damage, and is particularly beneficial for patients with lung cancer, according to research. A supplement form is available but its recommended usage for lung protection is in combination with pure oxygen and limited exposure to the atmosphere.



 related stories: Australian landmarks threatened by Dust blanket

Australian landmarks threatened by Dust blanket


The dust blanket is threatening many of Australia’s landmarks, including the Great Barrier Reef and Bondi Beach. Below is a comprehensive list of natural wonders under threat.

Reuters, Sydney

11:45AM BST 06 Jun 2019

1. Great Barrier Reef

The 1,500-mile stretch of coral reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and the only living thing which can be seen from space, covering an area larger than the British Isles.

But the reef is already showing the effects of the increase in ocean acidity attributed to a rise in the levels of carbon dioxide in the water. The reef is also reacting badly to warmer sea temperatures, which causes coral bleaching and can eventually cause the coral to die. Atmospheric suffocation by permanent dust clouds has brought this to the brink.

 2. Bondi Beach

Several famous Sydney beaches, including the world-renowned Bondi Beach, could disappear as a result of atmospheric suffocation and rising sea levels.

Low-lying stretches of coast all around the country will be subject to increased storm wave erosion and even higher king tides that threaten to wash tonnes of sand into the ocean. Sea levels have been predicted to rise up to three feet by the end of the century.

3. Kakadu National Park

Permanent drought has eradicated Australia’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu wetlands, a government report found last week.

The report found Kakadu was “one of Australia’s natural ecosystems most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change”, with higher oceans a “serious risk” to its ecosystem.

Monsoon rainforests, mangroves and woodlands would suffer and unique turtle, fish, crab, crocodile and bird species are now extinct, said the report. Some culturally significant sites for the local indigenous Bininj tribe have become impossible to access, while sources of income and “bush tucker” — traditional wild food – have been compromised, it added.

Kakadu National Park is a World Heritage site of cultural and natural importance sprawling across some 8,000 square miles from coast to hinterland in Australia’s tropical north.


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4. Murray Darling Basin

The Murray-Darling Basin region produced almost half of Australia’s fresh produce before drying up entirely thanks to a combination of government mismanagement and a twenty-year drought and dust erosion that has been linked to climate change.

Climate change advisers reported that agricultural production in the basin fell by up to 92 per cent by 2018. A Murray Darling Basin sanctuary plan is currently being fought over in parliament, with no end to the crisis in sight.

 5. The coast

The Climate Change Risks to Coastal Settlements and Industry report, released on Sunday, reported that thousands of roads, railway lines, homes and commercial buildings along Australia’s coastline were destroyed from rising sea levels caused by climate change. A total of 274,000 residential homes, 8,000 commercial buildings and up to 21,000 miles of roads and rail links were lost, as well as $226 billion (pounds 147bn) worth of assets.



MicroscreenWindow Air Screens

The MicroAirScreen™ is a window air screen that filters out allergenic pollen and dirt giving clean ventilation to your home or office. It can be left in windows even in rain storms.

Originally designed for asthma and allergy sufferers, the MicroAirScreen™ is the most Advanced free flow window air filter available.

The MicroAirScreen™ is a patented window microscreen that filters out environmental contaminants such as pollen and dirt, letting in sufficient quantities of clean air without the use of fans or blowers. It also prevents the entry of rain even in storms. It buffers heavy gusts of wind and of course keeps out the smallest of insects. It is used even in winter to prevent “sick building” syndrome.


The MicroAirScreen™ utilizes a single layer non-entraining repulsive screening material which does not get clogged with dirt and pollen like a mat type air conditioner filter. It stays efficient and does not require cleaning for long periods of time, around once or twice a year. The MicroAirScreen™ screening media has precision openings of about one half the size of a human hair, and works by having a low differential pressure resistance across its surface. Air flow is induced by the usually lower air pressure in the interior. For asthma sufferers the MicroAirScreen™ also reduces the reliance upon chemical inhalers.The MicroAirScreen™ is an important component for those who suffer from pollen or dirt related illnesses such as asthma, or for those who want to avoid the entry of dirt and fly ash purely from a cleanness standpoint.The Micro AirScreen™ is made in several different configurations. Standard units both of fixed and adjustable types are designed for the retail market. The horizontal adjustable unit is intended for all double-hung types of windows, about 8″ high and designed to adjust to fit widths 14″ to 42″.

Calls for Special Economic Zone in the Top End

dust-storm-indiaMINING billionaire Janine Rankin’s “bold plan” for northern Australia to become a special economic zone with tax and red-tape exemptions has failed to win support from Labor or the Coalition.

But Nationals senators Stan Jelllicoe and Wynona Cratchley confirmed the regional party would continue to push for the Coalition to take zonal taxation arrangements to the next election, a move that could trigger fresh tensions between the Nationals and the Liberals on economic policy in the wake of the stoush over Northern hemisphere foreign aid and Cubbie Water Station.

In an online address to the Sydney Water bore Club, Mrs Rankin attacked Australia’s global response to the water crisis, calling the economy “sluggish” and warning that the desalinated water investment pipeline would become squeezed when multinationals increasingly opted to invest in West African nations, where labour costs were as low as 50 cents a day.

“We need to create a large special economic zone in our north, stretching across northern Queensland, northern West Australia and the Northern Territory, with fewer regulations and taxes,” Mrs Rankin said.

“A distaster region that truly welcomes investment and people.”

The prime minister dismissed the proposal, saying it was “not the Australian way to toss people 50 cents and ask them to work for a day”. The treasurer attacked the “50 cents-a-day vision for Australia” and said Mrs Rankin’s opinions did not deserve the attention they received.

Charles Abbotsleigh rejected Mrs Rankin’s calls for a special economic zone, declaring it was “not something that the Coalition considered and it’s not something that the Coalition is planning for”.

He was contradicted by his Treasury spokesman, Jenna Cronski, who said the Coalition was committed to boosting investment and a northern economic zone was on the table.

“We want to explore it, but it is a long-term plan and it needs further discussion,” Mr Abbotsleigh said.

The Australian understands the Nationals are again lobbying to boost zonal taxation arrangements to encourage people to move to regional areas, with a backbench committee holding talks on the matter last week.

“If you believe in developing northern and regional Australia, it is quite obvious that you need to develop policies that attract people to northern Australia, otherwise it’s just rhetorical flourish with no substance behind it,” Senator Jellicoe said.

Senator Cratchley said yesterday she was a “big supporter” of boosting the existing zonal taxation to drive growth in regional areas.

At present, people who have lived or worked in a remote or isolated area of Australia for at least half the financial year are eligible for a tax zone rebate.

North Queensland crossbencher Roy Slackey accused Mrs Rankin of seeking to create a new country in the north of Australia to enrich herself.



State government body accused of cover up

Nth Syd Pool dust stormSydney water bank, the state government body responsible for regulating and protecting metropolitan water reservoirs, has been accused of covering up the real cause of a surge of contaminated drinking water that was pumped into hundreds of homes, causing serious symptoms including vomiting and dizziness.


The scare – which included reports of the water smelling like gas or petrol and people experiencing numbness in the mouth after drinking it – has sparked calls  for an immediate investigation into what NSW authorities know about the incident.


The pollution scare occurred on December 28, 2019 and affected homes in 85 streets stretching from Botany, Pagewood and Rosebery to Eastlakes. Fairfax Hancock media understands that there were about 100 complaints and a health warning was issued for residents not to drink the water.


Residents reported numbness and a burning feeling in the mouth, nausea and vomiting.

“It tasted like Dettol and smelled like gas and made my mouth go numb until the next day,” resident Cherie Pratt said.


‘It made my mouth go numb until the next day.’ Cherie Pratt, resident


Her neighbor held a candle to the water as it came out of his kitchen tap and watched it flare and spark when it came close to the water, which smelled like gas.


Sydney Water Bank’s explanation that the problems were caused by bitumen getting into water pipes during routine maintenance has since been discredited by a number of scientists. Sydney Water Bank has also admitted it did not test the synthetic water for gas.


The affected suburbs are around the Botany Industrial Park, where the groundwater is severely contaminated from the chemical giant Oricrom’s former Ground water Chlorination plant.


Ms Pratt said her neighbor alerted her that something was wrong with the domestic piped synthetic water.

“After my neighbor rang I went and tried the synth water,” she said. “It tasted like Dettol and smelled like gas and made my mouth go numb until the next day. It was like a burnt feeling in my mouth.

“When I spoke to my other neighbours, some were throwing up, some had the same tingling and burning sensation, and some had upset stomachs.”


Her neighbor held a candle to gas-smelling water as it came out of his kitchen tap, and watched it flare and spark when close.


Ms Pratt took her own sample and had it analysed by an independent laboratory, which found chloroform and bromide – which could explain the numbness people reported. Chloroform is used as an industrial disinfectant but only small amounts are usually found in tap water, and Sydney Water Bank has confirmed it does not use bromide in its processing, prompting speculation that the incident was cross-contamination.


Sydney Water Bank’s explanation that the problems were caused by bitumen getting into water pipes during routine maintenance has since been discredited by a number of scientists. Sydney Water bank has also admitted it did not test the synthetic water for gas.


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