Partnering with government and Aboriginal organisations to ensure safety of drinking water

ANSTO

Key Points

  • ANSTO works with the NSW government and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council to ensure drinking water supplied to Aboriginal communities is safe

  • The Environmental Monitoring Group helps to ensure the quality of water supplied to Aboriginal communities is of an equivalent standard as expected by the wider community

  • Specialist Instruments and expertise are used to measure the levels of radioactivity

ANSTO is working with government partners to ensure that radioactivity in drinking water supplied to Aboriginal communities is at levels considered safe for consumption.

The Environmental Monitoring Group at ANSTO provides a service to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW Government to ensure the quality of water supplied to Aboriginal communities is of an equivalent standard as expected by the wider community.

A government program was established in 2008 that included a commitment of funding for routine operations, maintenance, monitoring, repairs and replacement of infrastructure. Drinking water is provided to more than 6000 people in 61 Aboriginal communities.

The NSW Health Water Unit undertakes regular monitoring of Aboriginal community water supplies for contaminants (including radioactivity) as part of the program, under the framework of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

The Unit has engaged the Environmental Monitoring team for radiological analysis and advice on this program since 2011.

Radioactivity may be present in drinking water supplies due to naturally occurring radioactive materials and as the products of technological processes, such as medical and other industrial manufacturing activities. Concentrations of radioactivity need to be measured and compared to drinking water guideline values.

“This involves screening for alpha and beta radioactivity in samples, using specialist instrumentation at ANSTO,” said Emmy Hoffmann, Manager of Environmental Monitoring.

The screening technique is a cost-effective solution for determining radiological drinking water quality, without having to potentially conduct more complex and costly analyses.

ANSTO Environmental Monitoring scientists are equipped with extensive experience and knowledge to provide advice on further analyses required if the screening levels for radioactivity are exceeded.

ANSTO provides these services in addition to its extensive local environmental monitoring as part of its mandate to operate a nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights.

The group delivers expert environmental monitoring and reporting across ANSTO in support of regulatory compliance and ongoing operations.

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Source: NSW Aboriginal Land Council

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