Historically, the Chichester Trunk Gravity Main (CTGM) was constructed with lead collars to secure the joints and while Hunter Water has replaced almost half with welded steel, the remainder of the pipeline still contains lead joints. Over time, lead fragments have deposited in the soil near the pipeline in some areas.
The health of Hunter Water customers is the first priority for Hunter Water. We know there is no risk to drinking water supplies. Routine testing shows water from the pipeline fully complies with Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Based on the results of recent soil testing, Hunter Water has identified an elevated concentration of lead in the soil underlying and adjacent to the pipeline. There is no risk to drinking water supplies and soil testing shows that lead levels drop off generally within two metres from the pipeline.
Are there any human health concerns?
There is no risk to drinking water supplies. Routine testing shows water from the pipeline fully complies with Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. If you suspect that you or your child has been exposed to lead, please contact your doctor or your local Public Health Unit.
What section of the CTGM contains lead joints?
The Chichester Trunk Gravity Main (CTGM) is an 80 year old 70km pipeline that runs from Chichester dam to the western outskirts of Newcastle. Around 30 kilometres of the pipeline has already been replaced. A planned upgrade is underway to remove the pipeline from Beresfield to Stoney Pinch, with the removal ofthe pipeline between Tarro to Shortland has recently been completed. The existing Tarro to Brookfield stretch contains lead joints. Generally the lead jointed section of the pipeline runs along an 18 to 20 metre corridor of land owned by Hunter Water.
Hunter Water has been augmenting sections of the pipeline since the 1950's primarily to cater for the demand of an increasing population. The recently replaced section from Tarro to Shortland has been laid underground to secure that section of the pipeline against potential flood damage. The Beresfield to Stoney Pinch section of the pipeline is also currently being upgraded to provide for population growth.
When did Hunter Water identify that there were potential issues relating to lead?
Historically, the 80 year old Chichester Trunk Gravity Main (CTGM) had been constructed with lead collars to secure the joints, as was standard practice at that time. Soil sampling in 1995 indicated increased lead levels in soil adjacent to the pipeline, however notification in December 2010 that a cow had died from lead toxicity prompted further sampling which resulted in the first confirmed link of the potential risk the lead posed to livestock.
How was the impact on livestock identified?
Hunter Water was made aware of the risk to animal health caused by the pipeline when notified by the Livestock Health and Pest Authority in December 2010. Following this, Hunter Water worked with the affected land owner, the NSW Livestock Health Protection Authority and consultants, who commenced soil testing of the initial property in February 2011.
The results of which indicated the pipeline was the cause of the problem and that more extensive testing was required. In the following months Hunter Water engaged consultants to develop an investigation strategy to determine the extent of the problem and continued to liaise relevant authorities, with additional ground testing along the entire length of the pipeline commencing in June.
What is the extent of the issue?
In NSW, no strict guidelines exist for lead in rural settings, however Hunter Water has taken an overall conservative approach and applied the residential criteria of 300ppm. The results of soil sampling have shown that generally the concentration of lead in the soil is above the normal criteria for residential land use. The sampling indicates that the levels drop to below the criteria at generally two metres from the pipeline. Of the cattle testing carried out to date, the overall number of cattle returning elevated lead levels is low.
Does the issue impact the entire length of the pipeline?
Almost half of the joints along the main have been replaced with welded steel however the remainder of pipeline still contains lead joints. There are no specific areas in the lead jointed section that appear more affected than others. At this stage the risk along the new welded pipe where the lead jointed pipe has been removed is considered low.
What action is Hunter Water taking?
Since becoming aware of a link between lead used as part of the Chichester Trunk Gravity Main and lead poisoning of cattle with access to the pipeline, Hunter Water has acted to inform adjacent property owners of the issue, through letters and face to face meetings. Hunter Water has is also working on immediate actions and long term strategies to address the issue. The initial fencing to restrict livestock access to the pipeline corridor was completed in March 2012. Further fencing will be completed as required.
What livestock has been affected?
Of the cattle testing carried out to date, around 97 per cent of results are clear of elevated lead levels.
When will the rest of the CTGM be replaced and lead joints removed?
Around 40 kilometres of lead joints along the pipeline has already been replaced with welded steel.
The section from Tarro to Shortland has recently been replaced and laid underground to secure that section of the pipeline against potential flood damage. The Beresfield to Stoney Pinch section of the pipeline is also currently being upgraded to provide for population growth.
The complete removal of the lead jointed pipeline and associated clean up of contamination along the pipeline will be considered as part of the long term asset management plan for the pipeline.
How is Hunter Water progressing the fencing?
The initial fencing to restrict livestock access to the pipeline corridor was completed in March 2012. Further fencing will be completed as required.
How to contact Hunter Water if concerned?
Hunter Water has sent letters to property owners and is also following up one on one to discuss their individual circumstances as required. Landowners with concerns or questions should contact Hunter Water on 1300 657 657 to be put in touch with the project team.
How is Hunter Water protecting its staff?
Hunter Water has in place safe work practices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff working closely with and manually handling the pipeline.