• The water supply on Palm Island has been discoloured for almost a month. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Residents in the north Queensland Aboriginal community of Palm Island have expressed outrage about the state of their local water supply.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

15 Nov 2018 - 8:04 AM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2018 - 8:06 AM

Residents in Palm Island - a small Aboriginal community off the coast of Townsville - say they're afraid to drink their local tap water, which has been murky and discoloured for about a month. 

"For the last month it’s been brown, but it just comes on and off – like clear, then dark," said Victor Daisy, who's lived on Palm Island his whole life.

A video uploaded to social media by a Palm Island resident on Monday shows a tap emitting brown water.

Experts say it will take a further six weeks to fix the issue. 

Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Alf Lacey told NITV News that daily testing showed the water was still safe to drink. 

“The testing that we’re currently doing at the moment, whilst there’s discolouring in the water, is that it’s safe for community consumption," he said.

“But I do understand the discolouring is putting people off. Even in my own house, the water’s sort of brownish in the bathtub and washing up and in the showers."

Mr Daisy said he "would never drink it". 

Home to around 2000 people, Palm Island is two hours from Townsville by ferry.

The local supermarket - the only one on the island - has provided one free carton of bottled water to each household, but Mr Daisy says it's not enough. 

He said he asked the local government-run hospital for clean water to use for his cooking on Monday night, but was refused. 

"Everyone’s running around like a headless chook looking for clean water, so it’s a bad error," the grandfather told NITV News. 

A $1.4 million water treatment plant was installed in the north Queensland community in August last year.

Mr Daisy - who said he worked for the council's water and sewerage department until he resigned a few years ago - claims local staff didn't receive adequate training to manage the new facility. 

"Our mob didn’t have any training, the council didn’t train any of our council workers for this new machine to run it," he told NITV News. 

"The engineers that were here that built it - they went away, they’ve finished their contract, and no one’s here to operate the pumps, the new machine.

"They were just setting our mob up for failure."

Mayor Alf Lacey refuted claims that staff weren’t adequately trained, and said he had every confidence in local workers who were well-equipped to manage the new system.

“We don’t need fear factor at this point in time," he said. 

"Council is doing everything possible to ensure that we try and fix the issue."

Late last month, the council issued a public notice saying the treatment plant was undergoing urgent "critical repairs" to address the water discolouration, but the problem remains ongoing.  

A spokesperson from the State Department of Local Government said the water was discoloured due to soluble iron and manganese in the raw water supply which naturally has high levels of both minerals.

"The department acted quickly with engineering and technical experts assisting Palm Island’s council," they said in a statement to NITV News. 

"The department has been advised that discolouration poses no risk to public health.

"It is expected the discolouration issue will be corrected in six weeks."

The spokesperson did not clarify whether free bottled water would be provided to Palm Island residents in the interim.