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An Entire Indigenous Community Is Running Out Of Water And It’s Making Kids Sick

Families are concerned that filthy water might have long lasting health effects.

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The Indigenous community on Palm Island, 65 km north of Townsville, is about to run out of water, and locals say the impending shortage is forcing them to drink and shower in filthy conditions.

Palm Island is currently in the midst of a severe drought with its two dams predicted to be depleted by early next year if the island doesn’t receive significant rainfall.

Resident Lynndel Prior, 38, says that the certain parts of the island had no choice but ​to use​ contaminated water for two weeks at the end of September.

“The water was very dirty and murky and my kids had to bathe in that. Three of them presented with upset tummies, diarrhea and boils. I’ve got a three-year-old who was premature at birth and she is a sick child and to get a waterborne infection would be devastating for her little weak immune system,” Prior told BuzzFeed News.

At the time, nurses at the local health clinic told Prior there were other families that were experiencing the same problem.

"The nurse at the hospital told me: ‘You’d be surprised at how many people have come here with the same symptoms as your children'. When I saw a doctor that afternoon he said the same thing,” she said.

While the towns filtration system has been cleaned and the water quality deemed safe for consumption, Prior says the water still remains murky.

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"What we've done now as a family is bought a water purifier that attaches to the tap, [which makes] a big difference now," said Prior.

"We are really concerned for the for those parents who don't have the purifier and can't afford it, well there's a lot of people who are exposed to water that looks dirty. Even though the latest testing says it is safe the water is still brown."

"We're estimating at the moment 150 to 180 days of water left in both of our dams, and that's both of them combined," Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey told BuzzFeed News.

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Lacey says he flagged his concerns about the looming crisis with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczulk.

"It's something that is very worrying and I did talk to the premier about it and we've had some officers on the island doing an assessment in terms of our water supply situation and then we can formulate a contingency plan."

Lacey says that the Queensland government is exploring a number of options.

"We are looking at old bore areas and a desalination plant is an option. Hopefully in the next few weeks we have a contingency plan to deal with this."

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Allan Clarke is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at allan.clarke@buzzfeed.com.

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