High Lead Levels Found in Australian Rainwater Tanks

Australia has been in the grip of a one-in-a-thousand-year drought. A while back we looked at how this was affecting the ability of cities to provide basic drinking water services and what it meant for agriculture. Then we perked up with stories on how individual Australians and their municipalities have again embraced rainwater harvesting. With gusto. (Governments have even being giving rebates for tanks.)

Unfortunately new report somewhat rains on that parade. According to a study released last week a third of the Melbourne suburban rainwater tanks studied had heavy lead levels, above the Australian drinking water guidelines. Researchers from Melbourne Monash University and the CSIRO also found traces of heavy metals such as cadmium. Damn.At this stage they’re not sure of the source, but several theories are being postulated. Such as residue from the lead that was in car fuel until relatively recently. Maybe lead flashing on roofing or lead solder on pipes.

Rainwater tanks have mostly been encouraged by water utilities for washing clothes, flushing toilets and water gardens but not for drinking.

Although researchers found that those drinking from the high lead content tanks did not have blood-lead levels of concern, they caution householders from such use until they can confirm where the lead is coming from. A warning especially true for families, as lead can lead to developmental delays in children.

However Professor Brian Gulson, head of the Technical Advisory Board of the LEAD Group had this to say on the matter: “Water filter systems can be helpful in removing lead from water, so if people are concerned about lead in rainwater they may wish to consider a filtration system rather than discarding their tanks."

As we've noted previously 20% of Australian homes now have a rainwater tank, and South Australia leads the pack with almost half of all its households sourcing some water from tanks. Via ::ABC

Tags: Australia | Pollution | Recycling