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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 531 asked in the Legislative Council on 27 June 2018 by Hon Robin Chapple

Minister responding: Hon R.H. Cook
Parliament: 40 Session: 1
Answered on

      531. Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE to the parliamentary secretary representing the Minister for Health:
I refer to question without notice 812, asked in the Legislative Council on 8 November 2017, to which the minister replied —
      � all drinking water supplied to the communities mentioned complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines in relation to both uranium and nitrate. Accordingly, there is no health issue posed by uranyl nitrate to community members.
      (1) Given that the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines contain no drinking water standard for uranyl nitrate, can the minister explain how the Department of Health comes to this conclusion?
      (2) What is the chemical structure of uranyl nitrate, and is it formed by uranium and nitrates that are below Australian Drinking Water Guidelines standards?
(3) In other jurisdictions, is uranyl nitrate considered a toxic substance?
      (4) If yes to (3), what will the minister do to get uranyl nitrate included in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines?
I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question. I have been advised the following.
      (1) The Department of Health has independently reviewed the levels of uranium and nitrate in the communities and based on both the conservative nature in which the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines have been derived and upon the most recent epidemiological study conducted by the World Health Organization, has determined that uranium and nitrate levels are not a health concern.
      (2) Uranyl nitrate—UO2(NO3)2—may be formed when uranium and nitrate are present. The ADWG has taken this into consideration when setting the maximum recommended levels for uranium in the presence of nitrate in drinking water.
      (3) The Department of Health is not specifically aware of the requirements of other jurisdictions. However, uranyl nitrate as a chemical may be considered to be a toxic substance, depending upon the concentration and exposure.
      (4) It is not necessary to include uranyl nitrate in the ADWG, as the maximum recommended levels prescribed by the ADWG for uranium and nitrate provide sufficient protection and take account of their interaction.