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Optus Stadium water fountains to be upgraded to remove lead-leaching parts

DRINKING fountains at Optus Stadium and in the surrounding park will undergo works to remove lead-leaching components.

Brass components will be replaced with stainless steel parts, after it was revealed some of the fountains were leaching lead at levels exceeding the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

The McGowan Government released a report by consultant EcoSafe International on water quality issues at the showpiece venue.

The consultant was appointed to investigate the issue and devise a Water Quality Risk Management Plan.

The Government initially denied there were any problems with the fountains after reports by The Sunday Times.

However, the EcoSafe International report confirms lead is leaching from components. A swathe of other improvements are also recommended to ensure patrons don’t consume water with excessive lead and bacteria levels.

Reporter John Flint tests the drinking water from one of the fountains.Reporter John Flint tests the drinking water from one of the fountains.
Camera IconReporter John Flint tests the drinking water from one of the fountains.Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper

“Since patrons of Optus Stadium and adjacent Stadium Park will represent a full cross-section of the community including those with increased susceptibility to the adverse health effects of lead ingestion, it is essential that the on-site potable water reticulation system is managed to minimize exposure,” it states.

The report proposes several “management controls” including weekly flushing and regular testing.

Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray confirmed the retro-fitting of the existing drinking fountains as well as the construction if 15 additional filling stations to meet demand in time for summer.

Mr Murray said the works would elevate the stadium’s water quality to levels exceeding Australian standards.

“VenuesWest is taking this extra step to bring the fountains up to the best possible standard,” Mr Murray said.

In April, The Sunday Times engaged forensic chemists at TSW Analytical to design and conduct a water sampling program for eight drinking water fountains in Stadium Park, just outside the new venue.

After testing Dr John Watling, chief scientist of TSW Analytical, concluded water in the fountains had elevated lead when not flushed adequately.

The brass components in the fountains will be replaced.The brass components in the fountains will be replaced.
Camera IconThe brass components in the fountains will be replaced.

The TSW findings confirmed results from two sampling exercises by The Sunday Times in February.

In June, the newspaper revealed the government failed to disclose its own water sampling results that indicated lead was leaching inside the drinking fountains.

A spokesman for Mr Murray said mitigation works on existing fountains is estimated to cost $56,000, while the new fountains were estimated to cost $66,000.

One of the world’s top experts on lead poisoning, New York-based Professor Philip Landrigan, said West Australians had every right to expect new construction to be lead-free in this day and age.

“The technology exists to produce lead-free plumbing,” he said.

The World Health Organisation and more recently the US Centres for Disease Control have stated that no level of lead in blood is safe for a child and that therefore the appropriate blood lead level for children is zero. This conclusion is based on very high-quality studies showing that lead is toxic to infant brain development at even the lowest levels that can be measured.

“Lead exposure in early life (including foetal during pregnancy via maternal exposure) results in loss of IQ, shortening of attention span and disruption of behaviour — effects that can last lifelong.

“More recently, data are emerging showing that low doses of lead are toxic also to adult health and increase risk of heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease. A major study is coming out this week in Lancet Public Health that presents these data.”

The study Low-level Lead Exposure and Mortality in USAdults by Professor Bruce Lanphear and colleagues estimates about 400,000 US deaths a year are linked to lead.

Professor Landrigan, who was invited by Lancet Public Health to comment, wrote: “An especially striking and unexpected finding in these studies is that the association between lead and disease is proportionately greater at lower levels of exposure.”

The EcoSafe report identified other fixtures that require additional management, including showers, eye wash stations and ice machines.

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