Uranium water crisis grips remote aboriginal town as family refuses to move
By Nelson Groom
A remote Aboriginal community is in the grip of a watercrisis after discovering their supply is tainted with alarmingly high uranium levels.
Deep in the desert of central Western Australia [WA], 60 kilometres north-east of Perth, lies a small indigenous town named Buttah Windee which has long hidden a dark secret.
Nine years ago, community leader and artist Andrew Binsiar, 47, was the first to discover the town’s watersupply contained levels of the heavy metal – more than twice the national health standard levels.
But he claims when he contacted the WA government he allegedly faced a long and nightmarish battle.
Andrew said: “When my fish started to die I decided to sample the water: it came back with high levels of uranium.
“Once I started spreading the word, most people moved along to different areas.
“But I raised my kids in this town, I turned my life around here and this is where my heart lies.
“When I contacted the State Housing Department in 2009, they said it would cost too much to fix and brushed it aside.
“Clean wateris a human right, you can’t put a price on that. This waterwas never tested for human consumption.
“It’s shameful for the government, and ironic because I run community programs like barramundi fishing to help disadvantaged youths.”
Andrew said the town has been drinking bottled waterever since as he looks to crowdfund the money to fix the issue.
But he claims WA government’s Housing Department declined to fix the watersupply, claiming it would cost about $500,000 AUD [£28,400].
Andrew claims as an alternative, they installed signs advising locals not to drink the water, supplied bottled waterand offered to move them to into a housing commission in Meekatharra.
But he is refusing to move and claims the town has been beset by crime and alcohol abuse.
Now, instead of waiting for change Andrew has taken matters into his own hands by launching an online crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of the much-needed equipment.
“I built a new life in this town without the problems in Meekatharra, why would I want to turn back?”
“We’re not trying to play the blame game, we just want this fixed.
“We’re hoping to raise the money needed with the help of the Australian public. Words escape me for how grateful I am for what we have raised so far.
“We’re not looking for a hand-out, we just want to prove to everyone that we can do them proud.”
Murdoch university watertreatment expert Professor Wendell Ela confirmed consuming uranium is toxic and can lead to serious health risks including kidney disease.
WA WaterCorporation’s drinking waterguidelines states uranium should not exceed 0.017mg/L – about one third of the town’s recorded 0.044 mg/l reading.
WA’s Department of Communities confirmed the dangerous concentration of uranium but said the town’s small population – which has reportedly dwindled from 50 to just 12 – did not justify the expense.
The spokesperson also confirmed the community declined their offer to move into public housing in the Meekatharra.
The spokesperson said: “testing of the community’s watersource in late 2012 revealed an unacceptably high presence of uranium.
“The cost of a suitable watertreatment plant was investigated and found to be excessive given the small size of the community.
DONATE TO FIX THE TOWN’S WATERSUPPLY HERE: https://www.gofundme.com/clean-water-for-buttah-windee