Environmental Lead and Nickel Contamination of Tank Rainwater in Esperance, Western Australia: An Evaluation of the Cleaning Program
DOI: 10.4236/jwarp.2009.11001   PDF   HTML     5,877 Downloads   10,409 Views   Citations


A significant number of birds in the port town of Esperance, Western Australia died in the summer of 2006/2007 and elevated lead levels were found in the kidneys, livers and brains of autopsied birds. These elevated lead levels alerted Government authorities to investigate the public health impacts of potential lead contamination in the community resulting from transport of lead carbonate from the Esperance Port. Water samples from domestic rainwater collection systems were collected to determine the extent of heavy metal contamination; 19% and 24% of tanks had lead and nickel levels above the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether cleaning of rainwater tanks had reduced exposure to lead and nickel contamination in the community. Follow-up sampling of 176 tanks across Esperance indi-cated that that there had been reductions in both lead and nickel concentrations, but that the reduction has been greater for nickel concentrations. The reduction in nickel concentration was significantly associated with cleaning status, whereas this was not the case for lead. Proximity to the Esperance Port was an impor-tant determinant of lead concentration. Tank and roof characteristics did not significantly influence the fol-low-up lead concentrations. The results suggested that there was ongoing contamination of rainwater tanks from the environment.

Share and Cite:

J. HEYWORTH and N. MULLAN, "Environmental Lead and Nickel Contamination of Tank Rainwater in Esperance, Western Australia: An Evaluation of the Cleaning Program," Journal of Water Resource and Protection, Vol. 1 No. 1, 2009, pp. 1-9. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2009.11001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Shire of Esperance, cited September 4, 2008, http://www.esperance.wa.gov.au/.
[2] Education and Health Standing Committee, Legislative Assembly, “Response of the Western Australian Gov-ernment to the Western Australian in relation to the cause and extent of lead pollution in the Esperance Area,” Perth: Government of Western Australia, 2007.
[3] Department of Environment and Conservation, “Update #2: Esperance bird deaths. 2007,” [cited 4 September 2008]; 13 March 2007: [Available from: http://portal. en-vironment.wa.gov.au/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/DOE_ ADMIN/MEDIA_REPOSITORY/TAB108326/ TAB6428377/BIRD_UPDATE23032007.PDF.
[4] T. A. Jusko, C. R. Henderson, B. P. Lanphear, et al., “Blood lead concentrations < 10 microg/dL and child in-telligence at 6 years of age,” Environmental Health Per-spectives, Vol. 116, pp. 243-248, February 2008.
[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Preventing lead poisoning in young children,” Atlanta: CDC, 2005.
[6] Education and Health Standing Committee Legislative Assembly, “Inquiry into the cause and extent of lead pol-lution in the Esperance Area,” in: Printer G, editor: State Law Publisher, Western Australia, 2007.
[7] Environmental Health Directorate, DoH, Western Austra-lia, “Rainwater tank sample results. 2007,” cited Septem-ber 4, 2008, http://www.health.wa.gov.au/envirohealth/ home/docs/RWT_Summary_Stats.pdf.
[8] NHMRC, NRMMC, “Australian drinking water guide-lines 6,” Canberra: National Health and Medical Re-search Council and Natural Resource Managment Minis-terial Council, 2004.
[9] American Public Health Association, “Standard method for the examination of water and wastewater, 20th Edition, Method 3120B inductively coupled plasma method,” 1998.
[10] ESRI, “Using ArcGIS spatial analyst: ArcGIS9,” Red-lands: ESRI Press, 2004.
[11] StataCorp, “Stata statistical software: Release 9,” College Station, TX: StataCorp LP, 2005.
[12] E. Maynard, R. Thomas, D. Simon, et al. “An evaluation of recent blood lead levels in Port Pirie, South Australia,” Science of The Total Environment, Vol. 15, No. 303, pp. 25-33, February 2003.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.