Is Katherine’s water woes scaring grey nomads off?

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Water quality in Katherine investigated
The scale of the water contamination problem is still being investigated. PIC: ABC/Xavier La Canna

Fears are growing that ongoing revelations about the extent of local water contamination will deter grey nomads and other travellers from stopping at the Northern Territory Town of Katherine.

Residents have already been warned not to eat local fish – including barramundi – containing high levels of toxic chemicals. Initial findings from a Defence Department report found local seafood and home-grown eggs posed potential health risks, and children have been urged to avoid fruit and vegetables grown in the dry season, when bore water use peaks.

The contamination is linked to old firefighting foams once used at the nearby Top End military base. PFAS – or poly-fluoroalkyl – substances were used on RAAF Base Tindal between 1988 and 2011, and pollutants leeched into Katherine’s bores used for drinking water and irrigation.

The West Australian newspaper reports that Katherine Mayor Fay Miller is now calling for federal funding for tourism marketing and land buybacks to compensate for the town’s reputational damage.

Soon, signs will soon dot the Katherine River alerting people that fish consumption is off limits.

“We’re very frustrated,” NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said. “Fishing is an iconic part of Territorians’ lifestyles, and it’s the reason many people come to visit.”

Further studies will take place over the wet season as river systems link up, and Ms Fyles told the West Australian that testing may need to be extended to the Daly River and other spots which attract anglers from across the nation amid the annual Million Dollar Fish competition.

The results of an interim human health risk assessment are due for release in January before a final report is issued in April. In the meantime, the Federal Government has just announced a $5.7 million support package for the Katherine community which includes voluntary blood testing, counselling services and an epidemiological study.

The West Australian reports that Canberra continues to provide alternative drinking supplies to dozens of Katherine homes and has installed a treatment plant amid water restrictions.

  • Has Katherine’s water woes and fish contamination scare put you off staying in the area? Comment below

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One Response to Is Katherine’s water woes scaring grey nomads off?

  1. Won’t worry me – Katherine & Tenant Creek are 2 towns, irrespective of water quality, that will not see me again. Absolute Hovels.

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