Uranium has been found in Eton's drinking water supply.
Uranium has been found in Eton's drinking water supply. Dominic Geiger/Dalby Herald

UPDATE: Residents told uranium in the water

MACKAY Regional Council has informed Eton residents that uranium and selenium has been found in the town's water supply.

In the letter delivered to residents on Monday it said recent monitoring has shown that uranium has been found in one of two bores supplying drinking water to the Eton community slightly above the ADWG health guideline level of 17 micrograms per litre.

Bore 2 levels ranged from 6.84 (0.00684mg/L) to 22.65 (0.02265mg/L).

Council said in the letter "this level is still below World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of 30 (0.030mg/L) but this bore has now been turned off".

The remaining bore has levels of uranium that are below the ADWG guideline level.

The reported values for Bore 1 ranged from 6.98 (0.00698mg/L) to 14.33 (0.01433mg/L).

The level of radioactivity has also been measured in the two bores at Eton and both were found to be below the health screening levels in the ADWG.

Under the heading in the letter 'selenium in drinking water supply at Eton' it states "monitoring has shown that the level of selenium in the drinking water supplied to the township of Eton has varied over time".


A letter from Mackay Regional Council to Eton residents.
A letter from Mackay Regional Council to Eton residents.

However, under the current water supply arrangements for Eton, the level of selenium slightly exceeds the current ADWG guideline level of 10 micrograms per litre (0.010mg/L), the letter says.

Reported values varied from 8.96 (0.00896mg/L) to 12.933 (0.012933mg/L).

Eton water is safe to drink

The council has "moved quickly to isolate groundwater supplies at Eton" it says, after elevated levels of uranium were detected in one of the bores.

The amount of uranium detected slightly exceeded the acceptable level as outlined in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines but was below World Health Organisation guidelines.

Engineering and Commercial Infrastructure director Jason Devitt said in a statement there was no risk to the community and the affected bore had been turned off.

"We have taken swift action to stop using the bore and issued letters to all residents to reassure them about the situation," he said.

Under the ADWG, a health guideline value of 17 micrograms per litre for uranium has been set. The WHO guideline has a limit of 30 micrograms per litre set (0.030 mg/L)

Eton's supply was found to be 21 micrograms per litre (0.021mg/L).

A letter sent to Eton residents states uranium was found on September 9.
A letter sent to Eton residents states uranium was found on September 9.

Council officers and Queensland Health staff will hold community information sessions in Eton over the next two days to answer any questions.

They will be held at Eton Primary School on Tuesday, November 8 from 2pm to 6pm and Wednesday, November 9 from 8am to noon.

Eton's second groundwater bore remains operational with slightly elevated levels of selenium, which occurs naturally in groundwater supplies.

Mr Devitt said council was considering its long-term options for the Eton water supply.

Queensland Health public health physician, Dr Steven Donohue, said Eton residents should not be concerned about ill-effects from their drinking water.

"The Australian guidelines have very wide safety margins and the uranium and selenium levels detected in the Eton bore are only a minor exceedance," Dr Donohue said.

"The guidelines are also based on a lifetime of exposure and assume that is the main source of water consumed," he said.

"However, the reality is people drink water from a variety of sources, so their overall dose of uranium and selenium would probably be lower," he said.