Page 3293 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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amongst other matters, a series of questions relating to a recent unpleasant taste and odour or discolouration of tap water experienced by Canberra residents. It was revealed at that time that Icon Water had received more than 400 complaints about this issue. At the hearings, officials explained that the change in the water was a result of a naturally occurring event due to the compound MIB being stirred up within the sediment of the Bendora catchment, and they stressed that there is no health risk from drinking the water.

But it did provide an opportunity for Icon Water to examine how they respond to these sorts of situations. For example, at that time, if you called Icon Water on the phone, you were met with a recorded message, which may have resulted in people who had called to make a complaint ending the call entirely. It was surprising that a government response—an Icon Water response—to issues of poor-tasting drinking water might recommend that we add lemon or mint to the water, rather than address the cause of it. We do not want to stop people from making a complaint—we wanted them to stay on the phone—and I fear that the recorded message, as it was, may have meant that some people did not stay on the phone to make a complaint.

Using a prerecorded message like that should not be an avenue to prevent consumers from registering a complaint, because Icon Water is required to provide the information to the ICRC about annual complaint numbers. So, while they had about 400 complaints at the time of the estimates hearing, it is quite possible that there were a large number of callers who did not stay on the phone to make the complaint that they had rung up for, because they were deterred by the prerecorded message. I feel there should be better mechanisms in place to make complaints in examples like this, so that we have a more accurate picture of how big the issue is.

Furthermore, as I mentioned already, some of the responses to people who have raised concerns about the quality of tap water were very interesting. I mentioned that some official responses suggested that people add lemon or mint to the water or store it in the fridge for a while to change the taste. I found this quite disconcerting. Canberra water was known for many, many years as being the best water in Australia, and I am eager to learn what Icon Water’s plans are to prevent this type of thing happening again—to prevent the increased concentration of MIB in the future and to ensure that Canberra gets back to the top in being known as having the best possible drinking water in Australia.

Given that it is a natural occurrence, surely it can happen again, and I hope that we have learned some lessons from the recent occurrence. I look forward to hearing what preventative measures might be introduced and what destratification equipment might be installed to deal with that stratification in the water reservoirs in the future. I note that in the estimates report some of these issues were touched on. For example, recommendation 34 states:

The Committee recommends that ICON Water examine reasons for the MIB contamination and how to supply long term high quality drinking water.

I was pleased to see that this recommendation was agreed to, and that Icon Water has entered into discussions with the ANU on conducting MIB research. Similarly, recommendation 35 states:

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