Little support for Pioneer from Health Department: MLC

A rainwater tank in the town of Pioneer.

Independent McIntyre MLC Tania Rattray said there had been little support for the town of Pioneer and its lead contamination issues.

In 2012, it was revealed Pioneer’s water supply was contaminated with unsafe quantities of lead. Rainwater tanks were then distributed to the town’s residents, at a cost of about $22,000 per connection. The previously stated cost for this program in The Examiner was incorrect.

This year, it was discovered that the water in some rainwater tanks was also contaminated with lead, due to lead leaching from roofs, downpipes and guttering. Pioneer residents are now calling for an inquiry into the handling of the issue, and Ms Rattray said the Department of Health should be involved.

RELATED: Call for inquiry into Pioneer’s lead-contaminated drinking water

“Unfortunately, the director of public health doesn’t see it as as big of an issue as [myself and the residents] do,” she said. “The Department of Health has an obligation to act on any issue that impacts on community health.

“Sometimes some of our smaller communities feel that they are overlooked, and I think that’s possibly what’s happened.

“When it comes to health and wellbeing of a community, the state government is responsible for that, and we have an organisation called the Department of Health and director of public health, and that falls squarely with them.”

Director of public health Dr Mark Veitch said there was no evidence lead had caused health problems at Pioneer.

“Public Health Services recognises that the matter of a lead-contaminated water supply has been a cause of concern for residents of Pioneer,” he said. “However, PHS has never been notified of any person in Pioneer having returned a test showing elevated levels of lead in their blood.

“When anyone has any concerns about their health, PHS always recommends the person seeks a medical assessment from their GP, so all possible causes of their symptoms can be considered, and the appropriate tests done by their doctor.”

Once consumed lead remains in the blood for 30 to 60 days, but can cause delayed health impacts long after. Systemic blood testing of residents after the first lead contamination was discovered in 2012 was not undertaken, but Dr Veitch said they were not aware of any cases of elevated blood lead levels in Pioneer residents.

“Pathology laboratories are required to notify the director of public health of the results of tests of anyone with elevated blood lead levels,” he said.

“PHS staff have spent considerable time working on issues raised around Pioneer’s water supply and discussing this with residents. PHS has engaged in a responsible and appropriate manner, and it is untrue to suggest otherwise.”

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