The impact of the bushfires on local water supplies has led to Rous County Council (RCC) developing a targeted raw water sampling program in consultation with NSW Health and industry experts to identify potential contaminants.
Scientists from Southern Cross University (SCU) have recently discovered that when bushfire temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees the naturally occurring, safe, chromium-3 in surface soil can turn into the toxic, cancer-causing chromium-6.
Chromium 6 is the substance spotlighted by renowned American environmentalist Erin Brockovich, who blew the whistle on high concentrations in the water supply of her home town in southern California.
No Chromium detectable
‘Around 20 per cent of the Rocky Creek Dam catchment is affected by fires,’ said a spokesperson for RCC.
‘Before and after the recent rain event, RCC staff have undertaken sampling and testing of the waters coming into Rocky Creek Dam for chromium and other potential contaminants. No Chromium or Chromium 6 was detectable in any of the samples analysed from this first round of sampling.’
Rous County Council, in consultation with NSW Health and industry, will continue to asses the need for further sampling.
‘As part of Rous’ Drinking Water Monitoring Program, which is in place all the time, regardless of the fires, chromium (total) is monitored within the treated water (at the end of the treatment plant process), which is in accordance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. If chromium (total) is detected, we would then conduct further sampling and testing for chromium 6,’ the spokesperson explained.
Rous County Council has a number of treatment barriers in place including ensuring there is a significant body of water between the inflow streams to the Rocky Creek Dam and where they draw the water off for treatment. This is then followed by an advanced water treatment plant including ozonation and biological activated carbon filters which are effective at removing chromium from water supplies.
In consultation with NSW Health and industry RCC will continue to assess the need for further sampling over the next few weeks and months.