Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 16, pp 12276–12288 | Cite as

Identification of the sources of metal (lead) contamination in drinking waters in north-eastern Tasmania using lead isotopic compositions.

  • P. J. Harvey
  • H. K. Handley
  • M. P. Taylor
Research Article


This study utilises a range of scientific approaches, including lead isotopic compositions, to differentiate unknown sources of ongoing lead contamination of a drinking water supply in north-eastern Tasmania, Australia. Drinking water lead concentrations are elevated above the Australian Drinking Water Guideline (10 μg/L), reaching 540 μg/L in the supply network. Water lead isotopic compositions from the town of Pioneer (208Pb/207Pb 2.406, 206Pb/207Pb 1.144 to 208Pb/207Pb 2.360, 206Pb/207Pb 1.094) and Ringarooma (208Pb/207Pb 2.398, 206Pb/207Pb 1.117) are markedly different from the local bedrock (208Pb/207Pb 2.496, 206Pb/207Pb 1.237). The data show that the lead in the local waters is sourced from a combination of dilapidated drinking water infrastructure, including lead jointed pipelines, end-of-life polyvinyl chloride pipes and household plumbing. Drinking water is being inadvertently contaminated by aging infrastructure, and it is an issue that warrants investigation to limit the burden of disease from lead exposure.


Drinking water Lead isotopes Pipes Pioneer Ringarooma River Tasmania 



Thank you to Jenny Bellinger and Lin Simpson for all their help in Pioneer. Thank you to the numerous fieldwork assistants. Peter Weiland of Macquarie University, Michael Wu and Andrew Evans of the Inorganics Laboratory at the National Measurement Institute are thanked for laboratory assistance. This project was funded by a Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (MQRES) (2012195) associated with an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT120100440).

Ethics statement

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research does not require ethics approval for collection of environmental samples (including tap water, soils or dust) as they do not relate specifically to human health, medicine and human research. Informed consent was however sought from all participants who provided a water sample in this study. Animals were not used in this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2015_4349_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (439 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 439 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Faculty of Science and EngineeringMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science and EngineeringMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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