Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Editor's Choice - Row 1

TasWater’s new public portal for monthly data …

Photo of mould growing in rainwater tanks installed by TasWater at 13 Main Rd, Pioneer.

Pioneer’s data under lock and key…

 Welcome news this week that TasWater have activated a portal on their website for the monthly reporting of drinking water data, state-wide. 

But the portal has serious flaws… 

 And dismaying news from Pioneer this week that a second resident has received a high, historical test result for lead (Pb) – until now kept in TasWater’s locked vault, against the wishes of the customer – a new letter from CEO Brewster – results revealing TasWater’s historical knowledge of a high component of lead (Pb) in roof paint, and at more than five times the allowable limit… 

TasWater’s new state-wide public portal for monthly data, provided for treated water systems only, can be read at the following link:

https://www.taswater.com.au/Community—Environment/your-drinking-water

I will first provide for readers here a brief and preliminary snap-shot of TasWater’s new portal, as it appears at this time.  I will then contrast this new public portal with last week’s private happenings at Pioneer, the town where the campaign for real-time data reporting at TasWater began, in a public meeting in 2015.

The Public Data Portal – Pros and Cons:

Pros:

A more timely, and publically available, reporting of drinking water data for Tasmanians.

  • The first such monthly portal in Australia, which would be of benefit Australia-wide.

Cons:

All pesticide data is missing – the portal was to display all drinking water data, but this has not occurred, contrary to the decision of the Board of TasWater in 2018.

  • Health Guideline Values are not shown anywhere within the portal. The customer can have no idea if a particular data result was a breach, or close to a breach, or well within safe standards.
  • Tasmanians do not know that this portal exists. TasWater have not advertised to Tasmanians in the three months since activation of the portal, nor have TasWater advised Tasmanians in any way that this new portal service is open and available for use.  A letter of reply to me last week from TasWater’s Water Quality Officer, Mr Stapleton, confirms that the most recent media release by TasWater for the portal was approximately nine months ago, mid-2018.  Mr Stapleton also confirmed that this is the most recent communication from TasWater to the 29 councils-owners about the portal.  Mr Stapleton did not indicate any plans whatsoever to notify Tasmanians of the portal.

  • Monthly reporting – the original decision by the Board of TasWater was that all detections will be published at least monthly, but my search on March 9 found a note to say that the last update of data was on January 31 – so 37 days since the last update and still no new data from TasWater, as per their stated promise on the website for monthly reporting.
  • There are no flags or notices on the main page of TasWater’s website to alert customers of the new, publically available data portal; nor are there any directions to find the portal. The portal cannot be found through the SEARCH bar on TasWater’s main page.  I tried the following key words, but with no success: ‘DATA’; ‘YOUR DRINKING WATER’; ‘WATER QUALITY REPORTING’; ‘CURRENT STATUS’…
  • If the customer finds the portal, there is confusing language at the portal’s page. This will deter customers.  For example, the main entry to the portal is via this direction: ‘Click here to launch the Your Drinking Water application’.
  • TasWater will not confirm that this portal is permanent. Given TasWater’s failure to advise customers of the portal, and in light of TasWater’s initial three-year opposition to the proposed policy to create such a portal, and a subsequent nine-month delay to activation – it is likely that visitor numbers to the portal will be low, and it is probable that TasWater will in the future formulate an argument to the Economic Regulator to close the portal on the basis of low use / low traffic to the website, notwithstanding the portal’s modest annual operating cost of two-thousand dollars per council, as per TasWater’s own cost-analysis.

 Meanwhile at Pioneer…

In the town where it all began for a monthly public data portal at TasWater, a second resident at Pioneer, Mr Fern (*not his real name), has received a letter from TasWater’s CEO Brewster, March 4, 2019, confirming for the first time that a test in 2014 for lead (Pb) in roof paint, positively identifies a component of lead (Pb), and at five times the allowable limit – 5030 mg per kilogram (0.503%), where the guideline limit is 1000 mg per kilogram (0.1 %).  Please find this letter below…

TasWater were to install a rainwater tank to Mr Fern’s roof, but several years ago Mr Fern refused, on the basis that he suspected his ageing roof was lead-painted.  Mr Fern was not provided his test result, and he was not offered a roof replacement, as per TasWater’s town-meeting promise to Pioneer in 2013, that all unsatisfactory roofs would be replaced as part of the program.

This result for Mr Fern was withheld by TasWater for years, and further withheld in 2018 when Mr Fern proceeded through the Ombudsman’s office.

Several more letters were written to the CEO of TasWater, the last of which dated January 13, 2019.  This letter was not replied to by the CEO for more than fifty days, even with the Ombudsman’s oversight.

When this letter was finally forthcoming from CEO Brewster, Mr Fern was advised that he no longer had any rights as a customer, and that TasWater has no responsibility to Mr Fern.

In this letter from CEO Brewster to Mr Fern, the CEO did not provide the missing historical test result for lead (Pb) in roof paint, nor did the CEO make any mention whatsoever of Mr Fern’s repeated written and verbal request for the result.

Only after subsequent repeated letters from Mr Fern in 2018 and 2019, with the continuing oversight of the Ombudsman – CEO Brewster, just last week, provided the 2014 result from the TasWater vault, confirming that Mr Fern’s roof is high in lead (Pb) component, at greater than five times the allowable limit.

CEO Brewster seeks to explain-away in his letter of March 4, 2019, writing:

‘We acknowledge we misinterpreted this data when the results were first advised to you.’

 But CEO Brewster’s explanation does not account for the documented and long-standing denials by him to requests from Mr Fern, written and verbal, for his test results – no matter what the results are, or might be interpreted to be.

This is now the second resident at Pioneer who, with the assistance of the Ombudsman, now possesses such written confirmation from the CEO of TasWater, for high lead (Pb) content in roof paint.

The first resident, Mr Hanks, last week began discussions with lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office in Hobart.

Denied by TasWater for years, Mr Fern and Mr Hanks’ historical test results for lead in roof paint have seen no remedy from TasWater for safe drinking water.

There are others at Pioneer, but at the time of writing this article, none have received written confirmation of their test results of high lead (Pb) in roof paint.  One other verbally confirmed (TasWater) lead-painted roof, was contracted by TasWater to receive new roofing materials – though with no assistance for labour to install – however in nine months this resident continues to wait for TasWater to deliver these materials.

Readers should keep in mind that there are likely many more homes, with only a minority of roofs at Pioneer tested at all for lead in roof paint, not since the roll-out period, 2013 – 2018.

The Tasmanian Director of Public Health, Dr Veitch, has not responded to repeated reminders from me, where I seek a reply to my letter to him of December 18, 2018 – eighty-five days without a clarification of the DHHS’ approach to TasWater in relation to lead-painted roofs for the collection of drinking water at Pioneer, and their failure to apply the National Guideline Document for the Installation of Rainwater Tanks.

Dorset Council’s Mayor and councilors continue to fail to represent, nor to contact any resident with a confirmed lead-painted roof, notwithstanding my new representations to them at the most recent council meeting, which was held at Pioneer on February 18 – twenty-three days ago.

The residents of Pioneer have not received any communication from the Premier Will Hodgman, since his letter of September 10, 2018, wherein the Premier wrote:

‘…the Tasmanian government cannot involve itself in TasWater operations…If you have a public health concern, you are welcome to report it to the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738… I am happy to hear from you regarding any new matters you wish to raise but neither myself nor any other Government Minister will be responding to further correspondence from you on this issue.’

A new letter of reply to Federal MP for Bass, Mr Ross Hart, from CEO Brewster, March 1, 2019 – written an astounding seventy-one days after Mr Hart’s letter to the CEO, December 19, 2018 – gives the following new advice:

‘…We are in the process of forming an approach to address these concerns with the Director of Public Health and other Department of Health officials.  Once these discussions are complete we will be in a position to outline our approach with stakeholders and the community… [W]e anticipate these discussions are likely to continue until mid-March, 2010, we will endeavor to keep you informed as to the progress of these discussions…’

 TasWater’s CEO, Mr Brewster, continues to enjoy the unwavering support of the DHHS, State government, local government and all major stakeholders…

As this will be my last article about drinking water for Tasmanian Times, my twenty-third since 2013, I would like to sincerely thank the editor, Lindsay Tuffin, who has from the very beginning given his full support to me and the people of Pioneer.  Thank you, Lindsay.

TasWater: Looking Through A Lens Of Lead (Pb) – I hope that my articles (and those I will write in the future, to be shared on my Facebook page) may one day be published as a book, to document this pivotal and disturbing time at TasWater, 2013 – 2019.  I welcome enquiries from publishers!

Thank you, TT readers… Farewell… Cheers

Tim Slade is a resident of Pioneer.  His articles for Tasmanian Times can be read HERE

 Follow Tim’s articles and other news on FACEBOOK…

References:

  • Mr Fern’s test results for lead (Pb) in roof paint, sent by CEO Brewster on March 4, 2019.
  • CEO Brewster’s letter to Mr Fern, December 17, 2018, where he denies all responsibility on behalf of TasWater, and refuses to help Mr Fern.
  • Mr Fern’s reply to CEO Brewster, January 13, 2019. (Mr Fern previously wrote to CEO Brewster on November 11, 2018, and to the Ombudsman on September 8 and October 6, 2018.)
  • CEO Brewster to Mr Fern, January 25, 2019, with news that he may re-open Mr Fern’s complaint, with a potential site inspection – but with no timeline is offered.

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Russell

    April 3, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    The summary of the ‘meeting’ is that TasWater spent fifteen minutes doing their same old same old spiel about how both it and the community doesn’t need the Reservoir despite the drying climate in which three of the last four years were the record warmest and driest, and this year TasWater’s water supply system completely failed and was unusable while several Fire Brigade units were trying to put out a fire in Waratah during the period when Tasmanian was ablaze. The TasWater fire hydrants couldn’t keep up with the demand, and the upper pond where TasWater’s supply is drawn from (at the upper shallowest end) fell to where their pump was just sucking air and caused the whole system to shut down. When TasWater started it up again they incompetently did so without having a bleed valve open somewhere in the town line to expel all the air build up, and this caused a massive hammering which blew one of the hydrants and rendered it unusable for the whole event. If it hadn’t been for a water-bombing helicopter being called away from the wildfires in central Tasmania to put this fire out in its early stages, this fire would have joined the rest of the out of control blazes which devastated Tasmania’s landscape.

    This hare-brained lot shouldn’t be put in charge of any public utility.

    Entura was just as incompetent and deliberately misleading with the Reports it conducted under TasWater’s instructions. For use in its Reports it didn’t consult anyone in the community regarding historical or environmental significances, or collect any anecdotal evidence. It didn’t consult with any Tasmanian Aboriginal organisation or person regarding any of Aboriginal significance in the area. Most of its work was compiled as a ‘desktop exercise’, not even leaving the office. It used data from Hellyer River, Claytons Rivulet and Mikuny Dam for its modelling which have absolutely nothing to do with the Waratah system. It collected waterflow data at the Waratah waterfall where most of that water comes from a creek which runs into the lower pond and has absolutely nothing to do with the Reservoir dam flows. The Reservoir is spring-fed which almost stops during summer, but Entura and TasWater would like us to believe that it’s a real river.

    However, Entura’s own flood modelling showed that without a dam, Smith Street would be overtopped (which is the most dangerous event any dam could have) at just a 1:5 AEP (Annual Exceedance Probability) level, and that having no dam could cause 0.7 metres of extra water than currently experienced with a dam. That’s a hell of a lot of water when it’s spread over quite an area. Just imagine the power of that compared to the reality of just a tiny backyard above-ground pool letting go. In essence that means that one of the most commonly expected annual flood exceedances would overtop the main road (at the waterfall) every time, whereas if the dam was still in place its modelling shows that such an overtopping would not happen until the AEP reached at least 1:20. Alongside this is its recognition of the fact that the duration of these events would also be longer without a dam.

    The absolutely unbelievable thing was that the Entura representatives admitted that all this was correct, AND that they hadn’t even accurately measured the outlet of the culvert at Smith Street! Their Reports are a total sham, a waste of tax-payers’ money which could and should have gone to repairing the dam, and it’s a complete book of fairy-tales compiled purely to suit the objectives of the rogue corporation TasWater – the new Gunns.

    The best of all was when it was pointed out that on page two of Entura’s Flood Modelling Report there was a disclaimer saying that Entura may have just used data provided by their client (TasWater) to complete its Report. It was a total whitewash and a sham from start to finish. A disgrace. And you could see it on their faces as all their lies were unraveled over the following 105 minutes.

    BUT they’re sticking to their guns just as corrupt little public servants should, and once again they threatened to destroy the dam wall under the protection of a police guard.

    I shall compile and post as an article on TT a vastly more thorough essay of the whole two hour corrupt whitewash and embarrassment.

  2. Russell

    April 2, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    TasWater is holding another one of its fake community meetings tonight at the Waratah Men’s Shed 6-8pm where they will be trying to support the lies in their extremely selective reports available for view here: https://www.yoursay.taswater.com.au/waratahdam?preview=true

    Everyone is welcome to come along.

  3. Alison Bleaney

    March 14, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Gobsmackingly unbelievable in any other part of Tasmania such as Hobart!
    But heh! This is TazMania where it would seem the powers that be are of the opinion that ‘we don’t care and you don’t matter!’

  4. Russell

    March 13, 2019 at 9:41 am

    It is the same case with TasWater’s “Your Say” website pages. You don’t actually have the opportunity to have YOUR SAY at all! It’s just THEIR SAY. And most of it is PR, misinformation or just outright blatant lies. There is absolutely NOTHING on these web pages showing what the public says or asks.

    eg: https://www.yoursay.taswater.com.au/waratahdam

    I notice that Pioneer doesn’t even have a “Your Say” website page at all! Not that they will ever put anything on it that you actually say.

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