More than single lead source at PCH: Gow

24/04/2017 - 15:28

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

UPDATED: Building commissioner Peter Gow has issued a clarifying statement today (Tuesday), essentially confirming the state government's view that lead leaching directly from brass fittings remains the only significant source of lead at Perth Children’s Hospital.

More than single lead source at PCH: Gow
Peter Gow says there are two sources of lead-contaminated water at the hospital. Photo: Attila Csaszar. Photo: Attila Csaszar

UPDATED: Building commissioner Peter Gow has issued a clarifying statement today (Tuesday), essentially confirming the state government's view that lead leaching directly from brass fittings remains the only significant source of lead at Perth Children’s Hospital.

Mr Gow also clarified that lead residues from the QEII ring main had been drawn into the PCH in 2016 during the commissioning process but this was not a continuing source of lead.

His statment followed the release of a detailed report on Monday, which triggered media reports suggesting the Barnett and McGowan government had both misled the public.

The controversy took another twist on Tuesday when health minister Roger Cook admitted in a radio interview that he knew unofficially last year that a 'dead leg' in the ring main was a likely source of lead contamination.

This was in line with claims made in January by head contractor John Holland but opposition leader Mike Nahan insisted yesterday this was news to him and claimed Mr Cook should have shared the information.

Mr Gow told reporters on Monday there were two sources of lead-contaminated water – erosion in the brass fittings within the new facility, and disturbed residue in the ring main that services the QEII complex.

He said the challenge now was to determine which of the two sources was responsible for the elevated lead levels in the water flowing through the taps at the hospital.

“From the QEII ring main point of view, there’s probably not a lot of lead leaching out of the fittings that are in there right at the moment,” Mr Gow said.

“The problem is the testing regimes that have been done by John Holland, strategic projects and the plumbing contractor were really focused on where they were getting big amounts of lead and what they could do about it, rather than trying to identify which proportion was coming from which of the sources.

“So that’s going to be some sort of contractual fight down the track to try to prove that.”

More than 1,000 individual tests have been carried out by the building and plumbing contractors, as well as the state government, since May last year, but Mr Gow said the testing didn’t allow the relative contribution from those sources to be determined.

“The plumbing fixtures and fittings themselves met the required standards for lead content,” he said.

“Factors relating to water chemistry and stagnancy of the water may have contributed to dezincification of brass fittings and increased levels of lead leaching.”

Mr Gow issued the following statement on Tuesday April 25, to clarify his position on the most likely causes of lead contamination.

Residues containing lead were most probably drawn from the QEII ring main into the Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) when water flows in the ring main were disturbed in early 2016 as part of commissioning the PCH. Testing of water flowing in the QEII Medical Centre ring main in the second half of 2016 and in 2017 predominantly shows lead levels below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Water being drawn from the ring main is not a continuing source of lead.  The lead detected in end-point testing from mid-2016 onwards came from sources already in the PCH plumbing – either residues already in the piping, including residues drawn from the ring main in early 2016, or directly from the brass fittings. When the residues in PCH are eliminated, lead leaching directly from brass fittings remains the only significant source of lead.

Monday's statement follows news last Thursday that the state government had taken control of the new hospital in order to remedy what it believes to be the cause of the issue – the dezincification of the brass fittings installed by John Holland – by pumping phosphate into the pipes to coat the lining.

While the state government was firm in its reasoning that the only source of elevated lead levels was the brass fittings in the new hospital, a John Holland representative told 6PR radio in January that the company’s own testing of the QEII ring main found elevated lead levels.

Mr Gow also said today he was satisfied that other previously reported issues at the new hospital had been successfully remedied, including problems relating to asbestos and fire safety.

“In examining the specific terms in this audit, the Building Commission has not identified conduct by John Holland that requires disciplinary action,” he said.

“Delayed completion, complaints, material failures and contractual disputes suggest that the contractor may have failed to properly manage and supervise the project.

“The Building Commission will continue to review evidence from this audit, other inquiries and the resolution of disputes to determine whether any disciplinary action is required.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options