Perth Children’s Hospital asbestos-free, lead issue examined

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The Building Commission’s final report into the construction of the Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) has cleared the building of asbestos and fire safety issues and identifies the likely sources of the lead contamination.

Released by Building Commissioner Peter Gow today, the audit report:

  • examines the actions of registered or licensed contractors involved in the construction of the PCH;
  • explains the causes of problems relating to asbestos, plumbing, fire safety and others; and
  • reports on how the problems were addressed and whether there is any ongoing concern for the operation of the PCH or the safety of its staff, patients or visitors.

“I am satisfied there is now no asbestos risk to the future users of the Perth Children’s Hospital  and that fire safety requirements have been met,” Building Commissioner Peter Gow said.

The audit found the most likely causes of the lead contamination were disturbed residues in the QEII medical centre ring main and lead leaching from the brass fittings and fixtures in the PCH plumbing network.

More than 1,000 individual tests have been carried out by the building and plumbing contractors and the State Government since May 2016 but Mr Gow said the testing did not allow the relative contribution of the two sources to be determined.

“Test results from January to March 2017 show lead levels in the Perth Children’s Hospital’s drinking water steadily decreasing, although there are still intermittent readings above the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for lead. More recent test results show higher incidences of lead than the lowest results reported in March 2017," Mr Gow said.

“A more forensic approach to testing would have helped determine how much and when each possible source contributed to the excess lead levels.

“The plumbing fixtures and fittings themselves met the required standards for lead content. Factors relating to water chemistry and stagnancy of the water may have contributed to dezincification of brass fittings and increased levels of lead leaching.”

No evidence of lead contamination was found in the Water Corporation scheme water feeding into the QEII Medical Centre.

The audit report concludes that there are no grounds for immediate disciplinary action related to the areas audited, but the delayed completion, complaints, material failures and contractual disputes suggest the registered building contractor may have failed to properly manage and supervise the project.

The Building Commission will continue to review evidence from the audit, other inquiries and the resolution of disputes to determine whether any disciplinary action against the registered building contractor, building surveying contractor or licensed plumbing contractor is required.

The full audit report is available on the Building Commission website at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-commission/audit-yuanda-building-products. The Building Commission’s September 2016 interim report into asbestos at the PCH is also available on the website.

END OF RELEASE

Clarifying statement

The Building Commissioner Peter Gow issued the following statement on 25 April 2017 to clarify his position on the most likely causes of lead contamination in the Perth Children’s Hospital water supply.

Residues containing lead were most probably drawn from the QEII ring main into the Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) when water flows in the ring main were disturbed in early 2016 as part of commissioning the PCH. Testing of water flowing in the QEII Medical Centre ring main in the second half of 2016 and in 2017 predominantly shows lead levels below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Water being drawn from the ring main is not a continuing source of lead.  The lead detected in end-point testing from mid-2016 onwards came from sources already in the PCH plumbing – either residues already in the piping, including residues drawn from the ring main in early 2016, or directly from the brass fittings. When the residues in PCH are eliminated, lead leaching directly from brass fittings remains the only significant source of lead.

END OF STATEMENT

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Media release
24 Apr 2017

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