TASWATER spent close to $30,000 on a report designed to test the veracity of a Macquarie University study into lead contamination in Pioneer’s water supply.
The peer-reviewed Macquarie University study, undertaken by Professor Mark Taylor and PhD student Paul Harvey, was designed to ascertain whether lead in Pioneer’s water supply could be naturally occurring.
Right to Information documents obtained by the ABC appear to show TasWater employees discussing whether to engage external reviewers to “debunk” the findings of the Macquarie University study.
Their findings, released last year, showed the lead was not natural and was instead attributable to the reticulation system, with some lead attributable to sources in the homes.
The Water Resources Australia review subsequently commissioned by TasWater questioned some areas of the initial study, including how water sampling was undertaken.
Ultimately, TasWater said in June last year that; “We accept some findings of the Macquarie University study...we acknowledge lead may leach from pipes and fittings.”
Professor Taylor said TasWater had spent about three times the cost of the initial study on the review “not on collecting new data to actually test the veracity of our data but on what amounted to be a publicity campaign to denigrate the findings of our peer-reviewed study.”
“It would have been more appropriate for WRA to have subjected their work to peer-review, which is the ‘gold standard’ for science publication. That would have allowed us a formal opportunity to reply, which is the normal process in the evaluation of scientific research,” Professor Taylor said.
Professor Taylor said his team had subsequently produced a reply to the WRA review, which he recommended the community read.
He said his review found the authors of the WRA report had not fully understood why the initial study had been undertaken in the way it had, but that the report ultimately found the Macquarie University study’s conclusions to be plausible.
A spokesman for TasWater said the WRA review “helped TasWater to understand the risks and issues associated with claims in the Macquarie University study and their relevance to other systems.”
Professor Taylor and Mr Harvey held a meeting in Pioneer for residents to discuss their findings last April.
The pair advised TasWater on April 13 of the meeting to be held in the town on April 21, however TasWater did not attend.
The TasWater spokesman said the organisation did not have enough time to properly digest and understand the contents of the study before the meeting.
TasWater has provided residents of Pioneer with water tanks, however 12 residents are understood to have refused.
TasWater offers a free one-off tank refill to residents, and said providing reticulated water to the town would cost between $3 and $3.5 million.