Toc face water crisis

By Daniel Hughes

A week of treatment is yet to adequately rectify a Blue Green Algae contamination of the Tocumwal town water supply.

High algae counts were first registered mid-last week after residents reported a ‘‘disgusting taste’’ to the tap water.

At the last official reading before going to print, taken on Monday, the algae was measured at 29,625 cells per millilitre.

Berrigan Shire Council director technical services Matthew Clarke said powdered activated carbon (PAC) treatment is only administered once readings reach more than 5000.

He said council is unable to predict when the algae contamination will be rectified, saying it was quite an unusual short strain affecting the supply in Tocumwal and other Murray River communities.

Despite the high readings, Mr Clarke said there is no reason for alarm.

He said the PAC treatment will continue to be administered until the reading are back to an adequate level, and asked residents to perseverance.

‘‘Last week, concerns was raised by members of the Tocumwal community about the safety and taste of the town’s water supply,’’ Mr Clarke said.

‘‘The water supply for Tocumwal is sourced from the Murray River which is experiencing Blue Green Algae issues. As a result, the odour and taste of the water is affected but should return to normal shortly.

‘‘We regular carry out an algae cell count and when the count goes above 5000 we commence dosing carbon in the form of powdered activated carbon into the water, to combat the algae via absorption.

‘‘With this treatment the water is safe to drink, and is meeting Australian drinking water quality standards.

‘‘Algae is one of the challenges faced with water treatment on a daily basis, however, it tends to be worse in warmer weather.

‘‘I believe the taste and odour issue is only short term and should rectify itself fairly quickly.

‘‘I can only ask water users to be patient if they are experiencing taste and or odour issues, however, it is still safe to drink.’’

Tocumwal resident Vanessa McDougall said she did not learn about the algae in the water, until after using tap water to feed her two month-old child.

Even though boiled, Miss McDougall said it explains why her daughter had been rejecting the formula.

Learning about the water quality issues through discussions with other community members, Miss McDougall said Berrigan Shire Council should have been more proactive in advising the community about the water quality issues.

‘‘I discovered our water supply wasn’t great when one of the girls in my mum’s group said she had noticed it smelt and tasted horrible, and asked if ours was the same.

‘‘I checked, and it was. It was then that I realised that was the reason why my two month-old daughter was spitting out her formula. Another mum had the same issue her daughter.

‘‘I noticed boiling the water in the kettle didn’t help. It still smelt and tasted terrible, so I brought bottled water and have since been boiling that and using is to make up my daughter’s formula.

‘‘I have also been taking her to my parents’ house for her baths, as they are on rain water.

‘‘Although council now says the water is safe, I’m not 100 per cent comfortable bathing her in it or giving it to her.’’

Miss McDougall has called on council to supply more information to the community on the outbreak, treatment processes and potential solutions should the issue go on longer than expected.

She said updates on the expected timeline would also be welcomed.

‘‘Hopefully it’s back to normal soon,’’ she said.

‘‘It is not ideal buying bottled water for everything, especially to fill a baby bath. It will end up being quite a cost.’’

Mr Clarke said PAC dosing would continue this week, and he encouraged anyone with personal tanks filled by river water supplied to consider appropriate self treatment of their supply.

‘‘We encourage those individuals to contact council to discuss their options.

‘‘There are a number of councils experiencing the same issue throughout the Murray River region.

‘‘We are hoping this week’s treatment of the water supply brings the count down within the coming days.’’