Water triage needed: System ‘definitely needs to be fixed’

WATER CONCERNS: An image provided by Bermagui reader Michael Long earlier this year, showing the water quality experienced by Bega Valley residents. Picture: Michael Long
WATER CONCERNS: An image provided by Bermagui reader Michael Long earlier this year, showing the water quality experienced by Bega Valley residents. Picture: Michael Long

The issue of discoloured water in the local system has reached the South East Regional Hospital.

Southern NSW Local Health District board member and Bega Valley Shire councillor Russell Fitzpatrick said while he had heard of concerns, no surgeries had been cancelled or postponed.

“The hospital has its own filtration system, which doesn’t hold a lot of water,” he said.

Cr Fitpatrick said the hospital is aiming to install a larger water tank, which currently holds enough filtered water for one day’s worth of sterilisations before being replenished.

He said the Bega Tathra system “definitely needs to be fixed”, and the recent lack of rain may be adding to the discolouration issue.

“Being so dry the water levels have been down, which may be a part of it.”

He said while council is using various methods to deal with the issue, funding from the upper levels of government for a filtration system are very possible.

“It’s just a matter of getting to the top of the list,” he said. “They’re pretty determined to get things done.”

Council’s water and sewer manager, Jim Collins, said in September there is a need for water filtration plants for all supplies in the shire.

Mr Collins said the plants provide “multi-barriers to water quality hazards”, going beyond the current “single critical control point disinfection barrier”, and help prevent what he described as “dirty water incidents”.

Following recent reports of discoloured water in homes and businesses via the Bega and Tathra water system, Mr Collins said an aggressive air scouring process before Christmas will improve the colour of the water.

Air scouring has been implemented by specialist contractors for a number of councils across the country, and involves injecting filtered compressed air into the mains, forcing a series of air slugs into the system, which scour away silt and sediments.

The health district said council agreed it will advise the hospital if discoloured tap water is detected.

“SERH is fitted with advanced, highly sensitive water filters to ensure all water to essential areas, including equipment sterilisers and our renal patients, is clear at all times,” a spokesperson said.

A number of petitions have been started by local residents, pushing for a water filtration system.