TasWater has made an official statement following comments in the media regarding the process and results of DNA testing on water at Blackmans Bay Beach, stating that some comments may have caused confusion.
Independent Candidate for the Legislative Council Seat of Nelson, Richard Griggs, recently commented that TasWater was not being fully transparent when it cameto public health and a spike of E.coli at Blackmans Bay Beach.
“TasWater misled the community in a recent public statement about what they have done to locate the source of contamination at swimming beaches on the Derwent,” Mr Griggs said in a self-written article published on the Tasmanian Times website.
“In the second week of January an unprecedented faecal contamination event occurred in the Derwent River stretching from Blackmans Bay Beach through Kingston Beach, Hinsby Beach, Nutgrove Beach and even over to the eastern shore.
“TasWater performed DNA ‘fingerprint’ testing to determine if the source of the problem was due to human waste or animal droppings.
“TasWater were unable to test ‘the spike’ because the samples from the relevant day have been discarded. What in fact TasWater did send to the lab for testing was samples from the day after the spike when water quality had returned to normal.”
TasWater responded in its statement that these comments may have caused some misunderstanding regarding TasWater’s efforts to establish the cause of the E.coli detection recently found at the southern end of the beach.
The statement read, “TasWater is keen to ensure the process and the results of the DNA testing are clearly understood. TasWater has made every effort to keep our commitment to protect the health of the public and our environment.
“To this end, in conjunction with the Kingborough Council, we are regularly testing the water in the area to help determine the source of the E.coli and Enterococci using the most up-to-date scientific methods available to us.”
TasWater stated that it conducted DNA fingerprinting through the Australian Water Quality Centre in Adelaide within a reasonable timeframe after the spike in E.coli was first recorded; that is, within the time required for the source of the contamination to be properly ascertained.
It also stated that the test was taken at the same site as the Derwent Estuary Program result that returned the high E.coli levels, and that the DNA marker for human faecal matter is unique.
The DNA test reportedly showed that the source of the E.coli contamination was not caused by human faecal matter; however, the DNA test did show markers from the faecal matter of other animals that gather in this location, particularly the birdlife that is found in large numbers in the sheltered in-shore area of the beach.
TasWater CEO, Mike Brewster, said that he strongly upheld the transparency and robustness of the testing process, and that the health of the community is the highest priority for the organisation.
“Our testing regimes and processes are in step with best practice in Australia. The process used in this case was in keeping with that standard and in fact we acted above the usual levels of testing by conducting the DNA fingerprinting,” Mr Brewster said.
“We are continuing to work with Kingborough Council and ongoing testing will remain part of the program.”
Lauren Butler is the assistant editor for Utility Magazine. She’s based in Melbourne, Australia.