27 January 2017

Statement from Chief Health Officer, Professor Tarun Weeramanthri: Safety of Water Supply at QEII site

I would like to reassure the public that water on the QEII site currently meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and is safe to drink.

My reassurance follows recent comments made in the media, by the Perth Children’s Hospital’s (PCH) Managing Contractor, regarding elevated lead levels detected on the QEII site.

Throughout Western Australia, strict processes are in place to ensure the safety of our drinking water.

The public can remain confident that they can drink water from a tap without hesitation, and that behind the scenes, water suppliers and regulators are working together to ensure its quality.

All suppliers of water in the State have a duty to provide water that meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, and to report any problems with water quality, either chemical or microbial, to the Department of Health. This includes all hospitals.

The Department of Health has not received any recent reports of chemical water quality issues in WA hospitals, though from time to time, there are reports of microbial issues.

Given the known problems at the PCH site, North Metropolitan Health Service has increased its frequency of water quality testing on the QEII site.

Two reports from October and December 2016 have been provided to the appropriate regulators in the Department of Health – and a further report from January 2017 is expected shortly.

The Department of Health’s Environmental Health Directorate has reviewed the two latest 2016 reports, which document compliance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Based on the data we have seen, and our expert analysis, the public can be assured that the water on the existing QEII site is safe to drink.

Known problems on the PCH building site, with respect to elevated lead levels in the water, are a separate issue. No-one is drinking the water on the PCH site, and therefore it is not considered a water supply and is not currently under our regulatory oversight.

My role so far has been to provide advice to the PCH Commissioning and Transition Taskforce, as to what regulatory criteria might inform a decision to open or close a water supply.

In addition, the Public Health Division has received water testing results from the State’s representative, and the Managing Contractor, but has not been in control of the testing or treatment strategies.

Thousands of tests have been conducted over the past nine months on the PCH site by at least six different entities, and single results should not be taken or read out of context.

Health Department regulators will continue to exercise their independent and expert role with respect to existing water supplies on the QEII site and elsewhere.

ENDS

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