Bass Labor MHA Michelle O’Byrne said the state government told a Pioneer resident it had no control over the town’s water.
Unsafe levels of lead were discovered in Pioneer’s drinking water in 2012, when Labor was in government. Residents were issued with rainwater tanks, while all other towns with contamination in the North-East were supplied with treated water. This year, some rainwater tanks were also found to contain lead.
“Just four days before TasWater was officially taken over, the government wrote to a resident of Pioneer to advise that the government was separate from TasWater and therefore couldn’t help,” she said. “If the same concerns had come from a resident in a larger community the government would no doubt have responded differently. The residents of Pioneer deserve access to safe drinking water.”
Ms O’Byrne said TasWater had an obligation to both replace roofs, downpipes and guttering – the cause of the continued contamination, and to also deliver treated water to the town.
“Yes, [treated water] is expensive, but not necessarily more expensive than what’s happened so far,” she said.
“It is only a small town, but I think given the commitment [of treated water] to the two other towns [Herrick and Gladstone, on either side of Pioneer] it has to happen. And if people still choose to use tank water they can do that, as they can in the city.”
In Parliament on Wednesday, Premier Will Hodgman said he was always very concerned to ensure that drinking water in Tasmania was safe for consumption.
“We expect TasWater to ensure that rainwater tanks provided to residents are installed consistent with guidelines and legislative requirements,” he said.
“After residents’ concerns … I am advised that the director of public health asked TasWater to investigate how each residential supply was managed and ensure they reached the standards for sustainable long-term rainwater collection.”
Ms O’Byrne said that was “last year and residents are still at risk”.