19 February 2024

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink ... if you live in the Yass Valley

| Sally Hopman
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Yass resident Tom O’Dea shows the brown water that pours from his taps.

A Yass resident took this image of the water that came from his kitchen tap. Photo: Tom O’Dea.

In towns less than an hour’s drive from the nation’s capital, locals couldn’t drink their water this week.

Boil it, residents of Yass, Murrumbateman, Binalong, Bowning and other smaller hamlets were told.

Why? Because too much rain had fallen in the region, making the town water unsafe to drink, unless you boil it first. Unsafe for humans, animals and everything else in between.

People who have lived in the Yass Valley for longer than half-an-hour know how poor the water is. They take photographs of brown bathwater, of unmentionable-looking liquid squirting from their taps, of so much brown it looks like their images are in sepia.

So, what’s the issue? The Yass Valley Council will tell you, every time this happens, that it is “working to fix the problem”. It has been working to fix this problem for so long that even the town’s old-timers are installing those new-fangled rainwater tanks.

But it did provide some helpful advice on its Facebook page when advising people to boil their water until further notice: “Everyone, particularly people caring for young children, should be careful to avoid scalding, when you are heating and then cooling the water”.

And it’s not just the Yass Valley. Advice to boil water also surfaced down in Jindabyne this week. Same deal. Too many people, too much development drowning (sorry) old infrastructure.

READ ALSO Boil water alert issued for Yass Valley ‘until further notice’

The problem, locals will tell you, is that towns like Yass are expanding too quickly for the ancient infrastructure to cope. Yes new housing developments, even ones on the side of the highway leading into town, will bring more money into the historic town and its surrounds. But you have to admit the quality of life will be a little suss when all they get out of their gleaming new, environmentally friendly taps is brown gunk (that’s the scientific term).

For years the Yass Valley Council, in its various forms, has been employing consultants to tell it that it needs to replace its water treatment works. That it needs a whole new system and that that system will probably cost as much as if you combined the cost of all the consultants it has employed over the years – to tell it that fact.

Ironically, almost a year to this day, the big news in Yass was that the then NSW Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson was in town to announce that residents and businesses should see improvements in the town’s water quality with the completion of the $2.5 million upgrade to the Yass Water Treatment Plant.

Dirty bath water

Would you like to take a bath in this? This is what Yass Valley residents have to contend with. Photo: Supplied.

He said, at the time: “The upgraded infrastructure to the water plant would enhance the quality and reliability of Yass water, particularly during extreme weather conditions – of the kind which have affected the region recently”.

Yes, it has rained a lot. But no, it isn’t fixed – so it’s best not to drink to that.

The solution is as clear as the water isn’t. The town and its surrounds have outgrown the water works. A new one is needed. It will cost a lot of money and there’s probably not a lot left considering what has previously been spent. But someone has to do something now if we don’t want the valley, with its remarkable history, internationally acclaimed wineries, restaurants and tourist destinations, bespoke industry and once pristine waterways to become famous for something quite different.

Now that would really stink.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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