SA couple left to drink and bathe in recycled water for eight years following connection bungle

SA couple left to drink and bathe in recycled water for eight years following connection bungle


July 31, 2019 12:07:07

A couple has unknowingly consumed and bathed in recycled water from an Adelaide wastewater facility for eight years due to a water connection bungle at their home.

Key points:

  • The recycled water was sourced from a nearby wastewater treatment plant
  • Documents reveal the drinking water infrastructure was incorrectly connected
  • SA Water says it has reimbursed the couple and amended its audit procedures

Freedom of Information (FOI) documents sought by the Opposition confirmed the SA Water connection issue, describing it as a “misconnection between drinking water and recycled”.

The documents state the water services were connected to the home, in Adelaide’s north, in November 2010 and the issue was not picked up until a complaint was made in December 2018.

SA Water this morning confirmed the recycled water was from the nearby Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant which is deemed safe for flushing toilets, watering gardens and washing cars.

“The corrective actions undertaken on 7 December 2018 confirmed the drinking water infrastructure was incorrectly connected to the recycled water main and vice versa,” the FOI documents state.

“This misconnection of supply infrastructure appears to have been made at the time of construction and it appears that this may have been human error.”

The FOI documents state properties in Mawson Lakes have an SA Water drinking supply and a separate recycled water system, also provided by SA Water.

Labor MP Michael Brown put a question to Environment and Water Minister David Speirs during budget estimates yesterday, asking if he was aware of the issue.

While he said he could not provide specific information, Mr Speirs agreed with Mr Brown when the recycled water supply in question was referred to as “recycled sewage”.

“The water in the Mawson Lakes recycled water system is sourced from the Bolivar treatment facility,” Mr Speirs said in Parliament.

‘Safe drinking water is a basic right’

This morning, Mr Brown said SA Water had now changed its auditing procedures to make sure the connection issue would not happen again.

He also called on the State Government to offer free recycled water audits to all residents of Mawson Lakes.

“I originally received concerns from constituents living in the Mawson Lakes area about recycled water systems [and] drinking water systems,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“Documents show that SA Water aren’t sure exactly how it could have occurred.”

Mr Brown said the only way to know other properties had not been impacted was to check them.

“Safe drinking water is a basic right and South Australians deserve to know their drinking water is clean,” Mr Brown said.

“This was SA Water’s mistake and these checks should be free.”

The FOI documents also show that SA Water has amended its procedures for connections and dealing with complaints.

‘Not considered suitable for drinking’

In a statement, SA Water said its immediate concern was for the residents affected by the connection issue.

“A misconnection of recycled and mains-supplied water was identified at a Mawson Lakes property in December 2018, following maintenance to the local recycled water network,” the statement said.

“SA Health confirms, although not considered suitable for drinking, the recycled water is highly treated and of low risk to residents.

“Our immediate concern was for the residents in the household, so we moved quickly to fix the connections.”

SA Water general manager of customer delivery Kerry Rowlands said the customers had been put in direct contact with SA Health following the incident.

“We went out that evening and provided them with a different source of drinking water and started having a look at what was actually happening in terms of the connection to that property,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide

“It’s wastewater, it’s treated to a very high standard and I’m told that it’s actually one treatment step away from being able to be used for such things like potable reuse, but we certainly don’t do that in South Australia.

“We understand that they haven’t been put at health risk, the water actually meets the Australian drinking water guidelines from a health perspective, but not from a water aesthetics perspective.

“What that means is it might smell or taste different to drinking water.”

SA Water said all properties throughout Mawson Lakes had been previously audited to confirm connections were correct.













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