Australia: Diarrhoea in Central Highlands town due to E. coli in water

Source of Article:,27574,24892419-3102,00.html

Brian Williams

January 09, 2009 11:00pm

NO wonder residents of the small central Queensland town of Bluff have been getting diarrhoea. E. coli has been found in their water supply.

Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire yesterday warned residents to boil water before drinking because of the presence of the bacteria.

On Thursday a Bluff resident said anyone drinking the water was coming down with gastric complaints, a situation he blamed on the discharge of contaminated water from the Ensham Coal mine into the local river system.

Cr Maguire said the council was flushing the system of any undesirable water.

"This will be conducted over the coming days and residents are encouraged to continue boiling water," he said.

On Tuesday the council said its water was safe after a mechanical failure at the Blackwater water treatment plant allowed partially untreated water to enter the supply network.

E. coli can produce gastroenteritis with vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea and can be particularly bad in infants.

Ensham chief executive Peter Westerhuis said up to 500 megalitres might have to be discharged after heavy rain but the discharge was well within Environmental Protection Agency conditions.

Rural lobby group AgForce said the Government's policy of issuing permits to miners to discharge contaminated water was a double standard, given it was regulating against farm run-off.

A spokeswoman for Acting Sustainability Minister Andrew Fraser said the mining industry was strictly regulated while farming run-off was not.

The Government sought to put controls on farmers just as other sectors faced.

"If AgForce is suggesting that the same environmental licensing requirements be placed on farms that are placed on mines - including seeking licences for discharge and monitoring of any impacts - then we welcome this change of heart," she said.



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