MP’s Bill to fix re­mote wa­ter

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Per­era

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.

Pic­ture: Rourke Walsh

Min­gul­latharndo founder Beth Smith says the com­mu­nity has strug­gled with a con­tam­i­nated wa­ter sup­ply for 15 years.

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