Builder John Holland says it has found elevated levels of lead in drinking water before it gets to the site of the new Perth Children’s Hospital, sparking fear among residents and deflecting responsibility to the WA government.

The opening of the $1.2 billion hospital has been delayed by more than a year and the construction site plagued by problems such as lead in drinking water, asbestos in roof panels and payment disputes with subcontractors.

The government blamed John Holland and and ordered it to find the source of potentially poisonous lead in the water.

But project manager Lindsay Albonico said on Wednesday its investigations, including three tests earlier this month, found no traces of lead in any of the components it had installed such as brass pipes.

However outside water supplies were contaminated.

“We’ve provided laboratory results to the state’s representative that show there’s lead in water that’s being delivered to the hospital,” he told 6PR radio.

That prompted the Water Corporation to release a statement to “reassure residents” that their water supply met all health related requirements and was completely safe for use.

“Some local residents have recently contacted the Water Corporation concerned that lead may be present in their water supply following comments made in the media,” the statement read.

WA Heath Department Director General David Russell-Weisz held a press conference, questioning John Holland’s tests and saying extensive government testing last year consistently found water supplies were compliant with health regulations.

The tests John Holland says found higher than acceptable lead levels came from water in the `ring main’ pipes that also supply the QEII hospital and not the water main that supplies nearby residents.

Dr Russell-Weisz said people using the hospital should not be worried and that the regulator, WA’s public health executive director Tarun Weeramanthri declared water at the QEII site safe to drink.

“We want to get to the bottom of it but it is the managing contrators’ responsibility to provide a site that has safe levels compliant with Australian Drinking Water Guidelines,” he said.

John Holland’s comments angered senior government figures and bureaucrats.

“The problem, as far as the government is concerned and the results of endless, repetitive public testing is that the lead issue arises within the children’s hospital,” Premier Colin Barnett told reporters.

“The government relies on the independent public health testing. We don’t agree with the claim they’re making.

“I think their (John Holland’s) reputation is suffering a lot of damage. You would not think it is that difficult to deliver high quality water through a hospital.”

WA Labor leader Mark McGowan said the government should release every email, report and briefing note related to the hospital and committed to doing that if he was elected.

  • I suppose John Holland is saying that it's alleged failure to pay subcontractors on the project is all the government's fault, that the asbestos panels were all someone else's fault and that the delay of something like more than a year is also someone else's fault?

    I can't comment on whose fault the lead issue is but bottom line, they are the head contractor and they are the ones responsible for delivering the project on time, on budget and in a manner which is safe for occupancy.

    They are supposed to deliver hospitals, not blame and excuses.

  • The John Holland story is nothing short of a national disgrace – from the asbestos, to the lead in the water, to not paying contractors, to rorting taxpayers. As for the Government supporting the company on its use of asbestos and defending its long 'unsafety' record, and approving JH not paying it sub-contractors, this conduct is scandalous.
    Be it consumers (in this case taxpayers), or small business being defrauded, or the perilous risks to workers' lives, the WA Government's defence of the indefensible in the case of JH is both overtly shameless and beyond shameful.

    One has to ask: "How did the 'lucky country' become so twisted, the Government so corrupted and people so defenceless?

    Answer: The pursuit of Money and a total lack of any moral compass. We have a political class incapable of seeing any further that their own pocket and the delights of being in 'power' as the puppets of big business.

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