Public drinking fountains

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

In late March, the City of Greater Geelong tested a random sample of its public drinking fountains and found levels of lead in some fountains above the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

In April, the City commenced a process of testing its more than 140 public drinking fountains across the municipality.

All test results are expected in the coming weeks.

Our community’s health and safety is our number one priority.

It’s important to note that water supplied by Barwon Water is completely safe to drink. This is not an issue related to the quality of water supplied by Barwon Water but with the public drinking fountain infrastructure.

We have been working closely with public health experts at Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on this matter.

People don’t need to worry if they’ve recently used a public drinking fountain in Greater Geelong.

The Australian Drinking Water Guideline value for lead in drinking water is very conservative of health, so that it protects the most vulnerable people, such as very young children and pregnant women.

While the levels of lead detected are above the health guideline value in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, they are not of immediate concern as drinking water fountains are not the main source of drinking water.

However, as a precaution, as batches of test results return from the lab we’re switching off the public drinking fountains found with levels of lead and other metals higher than the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

DHHS supports this precautionary approach while the City works with the department, and other agencies, to investigate the source of the lead and ensure the water produced by public drinking fountains meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

There are currently about 30 public drinking fountains across the municipality that have been turned off following testing.

While waiting on the full list of test results to return we commenced a precautionary program of flushing all drinking fountains still operational across the municipality.

Test results have shown that flushing assists in reducing the level of lead in an affected public drinking fountain.

This flushing program will continue until all test results are received and all affected fountains are switched off.

Barwon Water’s regular testing shows that our region’s water is safe to drink.

Current evidence indicates that the levels of lead in water from our public drinking fountains is potentially related to plumbing fittings in low-use drinking fountains. This may relate to sitting water in contact with plumbing fittings.

The appearance of lead in drinking water associated with plumbing fittings is an emerging problem worldwide. Australian experts and water regulators are trying to better understand this issue and how we might address it.

We’re conducting a thorough investigation into this situation, and are working with health and industry experts, including DHHS, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Barwon Water and the Victorian Building Authority to identify the cause of the lead found in our public drinking fountain water.

In the meantime, all the affected public drinking fountains will remain switched off.

If you have concerns about your health, or the health of your family, we encourage you to visit your doctor to discuss this further.

For information about Greater Geelong’s water quality, contact Barwon Water on 1300 656 007.

For further information about the health impacts of lead visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.


City of Greater Geelong Acting CEO Brett Luxford:

“We’re taking a precautionary approach, supported by DHHS, and are turning off the public drinking fountains found with levels of lead and other metals higher than the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines while we investigate the source of the lead.

“We’ve also commenced a regular flushing program, which assists in reducing any potential lead levels in the public drinking fountains that we’re waiting on test results for.

“We expect a full list of tests results on the more than 140 public drinking fountains across Greater Geelong in the coming weeks, and will ensure all affected fountains are switched off while we work with industry experts, including DHHS, Barwon Water, DELWP and the Victorian Building Authority to address this issue.”

City of Greater Greater Mayor Bruce Harwood:

“Our community’s health and safety remains our highest priority.

“The City has acted appropriately in taking the precaution of switching off affected public drinking fountains until we’ve fully investigated the source of the lead, and we’re committed to keeping the community informed of our progress on this matter.

“Further information can be found at www.geelongaustralia.com.au/publicdrinkingfountains.”

Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Chief Health Officer (Environment) Dr Angie Bone:

“People don’t need to be worried if they have consumed water from the affected fountains.

While the levels of lead detected in some of the fountains are above the health guideline value in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, they are not of immediate concern as drinking fountains are not the main source of drinking water.

However, the department supports City of Greater Geelong’s precautionary approach to close the fountains while further investigation is undertaken.

If people have particular concerns about their health, they’re encouraged to visit their doctor to discuss this further.”

Barwon Water, Water Quality Manager Dr Will Buchanan:

“This is not an issue about Barwon Water’s water supply, it’s an issue with the drinking fountains. It’s important to note that water supplied by Barwon Water is completely safe to drink.

“As part of our comprehensive water quality monitoring program we routinely sample for lead across our entire reticulation network on a monthly basis and have never had a lead detection above the Australian Drinking Water Health Guideline value.

“The source of the lead is not the water supplied by Barwon Water, rather current evidence indicates it is related to internal plumbing fittings within the drinking fountains.”