21 February 2024

Yass residents threaten to boycott water rates as boil water alert continues

| Sally Hopman
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Electronic boil water alert sign

Yass Valley residents have been advised to boil their water before drinking. Photos: Sally Hopman.

Yass Valley residents have taken to social media to vent their anger at having to boil tap water before use, with some threatening not to pay their water rates when they become due.

Although the boil water alert in nearby Boorowa was lifted on Monday (19 February), the alert in the Yass Valley, which covers the residents of Yass, Murrumbateman, Binalong and Bowning, remains.

It was imposed on 14 February with the Yass Valley Council advising that, because of recent heavy rain and failure to subsequently treat the water so it met safety standards, the alert was issued.

Since the alert was announced, most Yass supermarkets have run out of bottled water – but on hearing that the Yass Public School had to buy its own water this week, the local Woolworths store donated six 24-packs, as did several other locals.

Even the Valley’s singer-songwriter, Daniel Kelly, joined the debate, writing a song about the water crisis, titled, Yass on the Boil.

Posts on Yass social media sites asked why they should pay water rates when they couldn’t use what came out of their taps without boiling it first.

“If all in Yass don’t pay water rates, how long will it take the Council to act and address this third world issue THEY have created,” one post said.

The council was criticised for failing to act on the water issue that has been affecting Yass for many years, with one resident saying he has lived in the Valley for “24 years and there have always been problems with the water”.

It was also criticised for alerting residents to the problem mainly through social media, which did not take into account the many older residents who did not use it.

“Yet another communication that’s about as clear as our poo-tainted water,” another resident posted on social media.

Yass Valley Council general manager Chris Berry said he and council staff were aware of the community’s frustration and were doing their best to remedy it.

He denied that the council was only communicating with the affected community via social media, saying it had issued statements to regional media and that he and councillors had done several media interviews explaining the situation.

He also said once the boil water alert was issued, the council contacted everyone on its vulnerable persons list, such as nursing home residents and hospital patients, to advise them.

Electronic water alert sign in main street of regional town

The second of two signs that greet drivers in the main street of Yass.

“We can’t get around to everyone,” he said. “People asked why we didn’t text message everyone affected. We can’t do that as a council, it is restricted to people like the RFS or SES.

”The legislation that allows that to happen is set by state governments – and we’re not part of that.”

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Responding to the claims that some ratepayers would refuse to pay their water rates when they became due, Mr Berry said that would not help the issue.

“Water use is billed to each premises – that’s a bill we expect,” he said. “We’re dependent on that to operate the water treatment plant.”

He said to his knowledge, only three alerts to boil water had been issued since 2012 and that Yass was one of 12 councils in the same boat.

Mr Berry said the community would be advised as soon as the boil water alert was lifted.

NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water staff are on site in Yass, assisting to disinfect the water.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on About Regional.

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