MP’s Bill to fix remote water
The issue of contaminated water in WA remote communities is in the parliamentary spotlight as part of a push to prevent the closure of remote indigenous communities.
Water quality is a major component of a new Bill being drafted by Mining and Pastoral region MLC Robin Chapple, who says water contamination should not be a reason to close Aboriginal communities when there had been no attempt to fix it.
Mr Chapple said contamination happened when naturally occurring ground elements such as nitrates, uranium, cyanide and arsenic seeped into the water supply and were not cleared out by filtration systems, which had been installed in some communities but not others.
Arsenic water contamination has been a major problem for the remote community of Mingullatharndo, located about 10km out of Roebourne, since its establishment, though it was 10 years before the problem was discovered.
Beth Smith, who founded and runs the community with her husband Marshall, said arsenic contamination meant residents cannot ingest the water in any way.
“We can’t drink it, we can’t cook in it, we can’t use it to grow food, so you can’t grow fruit trees and things,” she said. “But other than that you can wash, use it for the garden.”
Instead residents drive into Roebourne daily to collect clean water.
Mrs Smith said while Mingullatharndo as a private community was not at risk of government closure and residents had learnt to live with the issue, it was still a daily inconvenience.
The Housing Authority has made inroads into upgrading water infrastructure in 37 remote Aboriginal communities, including seven in the Pilbara, a spokesman said.
Mingullatharndo founder Beth Smith says the community has struggled with a contaminated water supply for 15 years.