Nadine and Garry Moore with son, Liam, beside the rain water tank.
Nadine and Garry Moore with son, Liam, beside the rain water tank. Bruce Thomas

Water's not so pure

RAINWATER'S image of purity and innocence is used to sell everything from shampoo to spa treatments.

But for new Sapphire residents, the Moore family, rainwater has been less transparent and their experience has highlighted an issue for Coffs Coast tenants outside urban areas.

If you rent, you are responsible for your own water supply.

When Nadine and Garry Moore moved up from Canberra to the Coffs Coast into a rented coastal home with a rainwater tank, they were shocked to turn on the taps and find their sink filled with smelly water.

“The water was so rancid it made us vomit,” Mrs Moore said.

She said they were aware their roof would provide their water and were not put off because both she and her husband had grown up on properties with rain water tanks.

Mrs Moore said they were particularly concerned about the water, which is collected in a large above-ground plastic tank, because their son had recently had major spine and brain surgery and had a compromised immune system.

The owner said she had acted promptly to have the tank cleaned and treated as soon as she was aware of the problem and when this had not been satisfactory to the Moores, she had arranged to have the tank emptied and refilled with town water.

The fact the Moores were delayed in Canberra and moved in six weeks later than their planned May date has been identified as the cause of the problem by the owner and her managing agent.

Information on rainwater from NSW Health acknowledges that stagnant water can result in water with rotten-egg gas or sewage smells, caused when sediment and other material accumulates in the bottom of the tank in warm weather, micro-organisms grow, the water becomes anaerobic and forms sulphides.

The property owner, who now lives in Sydney, said she had no troubles with the water tank when she lived in the house and nor did her previous tenants, who moved out the day before the Moores were due to move in.

“I have done everything possible to make the Moore family happy,” she said.

“I went above and beyond what I needed to do.”

The North Coast director of Public Health, Paul Corben, said boiling water, installing good-quality filters and buying water for drinking were strategies people could use if they were not happy with the quality of their tank water.

“I live on tanks and I am overpowered by the smell of chlorine in town water,” Mr Corben said.

“It takes people a while to get water conscious.”

Mrs Moore said she was very disturbed to find levels of e.coli bacteria in tested samples of their tank water from 35 cfu to 18 cfu.

These levels in rainwater tanks are not considered to be of concern for uses like washing clothes and showering.

Mrs Moore said this week their water still smelled bad.

She said she did not believe as tenants they should be responsible for fixing a problem which existed when they moved in and she is unhappy the house has no gutter guards or a rainwater diverter system.

The principal of the managing agency for the property said there was no requirement for building owners to provide gutter guards or rainwater diverters.



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