The Broken Hill City Council (BHCC) recognised the need for more permanent ongoing funding for testing lead levels in children and adults at its meeting on Wednesday night when the Lead Reference Group (LRG) delivered its report to the BHCC.
BHCC, Mayor Tom Kennedy said Broken Hill needs more ongoing and permanent funding to manage lead exposure.
The BHCC decided to lobby Federal and State Ministers and Local Members over the next month for more significant consideration of Broken Hill’s need to minimise lead in children, adults and the environment, as the current funding levels are insufficient to battle lead contaminants.
The BHCC’s LRG report also explained that any increase in water prices might impact the lead mitigation strategies employed by residents in Broken Hill.
The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) released its draft decision about water prices for Broken Hill on June 7.
The IPART draft report refers to BHCC’s October 2021 submission.
In the submission, the BHCC stated that many residents would reduce their water usage if water prices increased too high.
The IPART draft report acknowledged that the Broken Hill community uses water to maintain green spaces and remain safe from lead.
IPART proposes that customer charges remain stable over the next four years, before inflation.
IPART proposes that water bills would continue to be a small portion of median household income and comparable with what households pay in other regional areas in NSW.
Broken Hill is not comparable with other regional areas because the city has inherited a lead dust issue from past mining practices.
The Broken Hill community is still cleaning up lead from historical mining practices and needs funding to manage these clean-up and testing efforts.
The Barrier Truth reported last week that the Far West Local Health District’s (FWLHD) Lead Health Program showed a downward trend in levels for local children.
The BHCC’s LRG believes the reasons for the downward trend are increased hygiene and cleaning measures because of COVID-19 and the extra rain that has fallen in the region.
Residents also came off water restrictions in March 2021 and may be using more wet mopping strategies to minimise dust.
Leadsmart states that lead contaminants are found in the air, dust and rainwater tanks in Broken Hill, and the dry climate means lead dust gets into everything, including our bodies.
Lead can harm brain development and cause behavioural and learning problems.
Independent researchers Chenyin Dong, Mark Taylor and Brian Gulson, published an article in Environmental Research in July 2020 that provided insight for more targeted remediation strategies to reduce lead exposure further.
They explained that residents of Broken Hill should focus on mitigating contemporary ongoing dust emissions from the mining operations and the associated mine-lease areas along with household soil remediation, to help prevent recontamination of homes.
Water is essential for mitigating dust-related lead contaminants by wet mopping and maintaining green spaces.
The lack of planning and environmental laws decades ago left an environmental legacy in Broken Hill that is still being dealt with today, explained Bill Balding and Sean Reddon in their study of the Lead and Environmental Health in Broken Hill in 1997.
IPART and Governments need to give weight to the ongoing cost of cleaning up lead in our environment to keep residents safe from lead exposure.
“Mines also have a moral and ethical requirement to reduce lead exposure in our community,” Mayor Tom Kennedy said.
The BHCC LRG reported that CBH mine had installed a new sprinkler system at the Blackwoods TSF2 site that they hope will be operational in March.
It will have dust monitors that react to any elevated dust levels at the dam.
BHCC acknowledged that Broken Hill needs water prices that reflect and encourage the ongoing need for lead mitigation strategies.
IPART is seeking feedback on its draft decisions report about the prices Essential Water can charge for water and wastewater services in Broken Hill and the surrounding areas of Menindee, Sunset Strip and Silverton.
Broken Hill locals interested in viewing or commenting on the IPART draft decision report can view it at www.ipart.nsw.gov.au.
IPART is asking for submissions by September 9 and is requesting the public to partake in its public hearing on 6