Report details water staff abuse

THE extent of abuse suffered by Busselton Water employees following the decision to chlorinate Busselton’s water supply has been revealed.

Busselton Water’s acting CEO Geoff Oddy described the incidents in a letter responding to a Parliamentary Standing Committee request for comment.

The response came after a petition was tabled in State Parliament calling for the chlorination decision to be reversed.

Mr Oddy described incidents where Busselton Water staff members were threatened both physically and verbally, with one employee having a car driven at them while working.

The staff member, who was flushing a roadside hydrant, reported a driver speeding up and deliberately steering towards him.

While not injured, he was verbally abused the driver and was soaked after the vehicle drove through the flushed water.

Another incident saw a health expert addressing Busselton Water showered with glass, after an object was thrown through a window at their Fairbairn Road office.

“We understand that this type of unacceptable and dangerous behaviour is limited to a very small minority – but we’re deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of our team,” Busselton Water chair Helen Shervington said.

“We’d ask the people who are responsible to remember that the people who work for Busselton Water are local people, who take pride in the fact that they are helping to provide the city with an essential service. 

“They are simply doing their jobs and should be able to do so in safety – where would we be without them performing their duties to make sure that we all have water?

“The Busselton Water board did not take the decision to chlorinate lightly and we have worked at all times to answer reasonable concerns and keep the community informed.

“As we stated in our response to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, we gave the issue a great deal of consideration, taking into account the latest scientific research.”

Busselton Water also said there were numerous incidents of abuse being directed at staff both inside and outside their offices, and they had received a number of abusive phone calls, letters and emails.

“It’s difficult to believe that people would resort to this sort of action to intimidate our staff, on and off duty, and even harder to accept that their families can become targets too,” Mr Oddy said.

The response to the Standing Committee also said that a community member who supported the chlorination decision had threats of violence against them and their family, an action that is “to be deplored”.

Busselton Senior Sergeant Steve Principe said police took these threats seriously.

“This type of behaviour is not acceptable,” he said.

“They are just mums and dads trying to earn a living, they don’t deserve harassment. 

“If they make a complaint, then charges could be laid.”

Diana Michaels from Keep Busselton Water Pure said their group did not believe the abuse  of staff was warranted.

“We in no way endorse the abuse that Busselton Water staff have been subject to,” she said. 

“We have, on more than one occasion, and in different forums, asked the public to recognise that Busselton Water staff are members of our community and that they are just doing their job.

“It is obvious that the real problem is that Busselton Water has failed in the duty of care to the community and to its employees.  

“These unfortunate members of the community are in the firing line with no support or acceptable resolution.”

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