2019 May: Esperance (Western Australia) – PFAS

Water testing to commence after PFAS detection


May 30 2019

A groundwater bore in the town centre has been taken offline after low levels of per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances were detected during testing of the drinking water supply.

The fluorine-containing chemicals, also known as PFAS, were used in common household products and are often present in soils, surface water and groundwater in urban areas.

According to the Water Corporation, testing was undertaken in Esperance in February as part of a statewide PFAS monitoring program.

While the tests found very low levels of PFAS in three of 31 groundwater bores, the fourth bore on Hammersley Street was taken offline in March after the level reached 0.087.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines indicate PFAS levels should not exceed 0.07 micrograms per litre.

A second test in April returned a reading of 0.13 micrograms per litre.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has confirmed it is considering a number of potential sources, but there was insufficient information to determine the origin of the PFAS.

As a precaution, the department has confirmed it will begin testing private bores in the suburbs of Nulsen and Sinclair as early as next week.

The investigation area encompassed properties within a 500 metre radius of the Hammersley Street bore, bounded by Sims Street, Kalgoorlie Street, Harbour Road, Brazier Street, Jane Street, Coleman Street, Gull Street and Parsons Street.

The department’s director general Mike Rowe called on the community for assistance with its groundwater investigation to identify private bores.

“The samples will be analysed by an accredited laboratory,” Mr Rowe said.

“The results will help inform our investigation and will be shared with the bore owner/user.

“We want to ensure bore water in the area is safe for non-potable uses-like watering gardens.”

Corporation water quality manager Rachael Miller said there would be no interruption to the water supply and that the organisation would continue to monitor the town’s water supply scheme.

Department of Health Water Unit’s managing scientist Richard Theobald assured residents the Department of Health takes the quality of drinking water very seriously.

“Throughout Western Australia, there are a number of processes in place to ensure the safety of our drinking water,” he said.

“Drinking water in Esperance, supplied through the Water Corporation, is regularly tested to ensure it meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and is safe to drink.”

The department assured residents that the drinking water continues to be safe to drink and meets the national guidelines.

A Shire of Esperance spokesperson said the shire would not be making any comment at this time but confirmed it was currently assisting with the investigation.

In light of the findings, the Department of Health has reminded private bore owners that untested and untreated bore water should never be used for drinking, food preparation or filling swimming pools, and children should not play under bore water sprinklers.