The Northern Territory Health Department says water in the Lake Bennett area is mostly fine for household use, despite containing arsenic levels more than 20 times above safe guidelines.
The Environment Department says two private bores in the area had levels well above the safe limit, and a main supply tank had arsenic levels 22 times the safe amount.
Health Department spokesman Steven Skov says residents should be drinking bottled water but it is safe to use around the house.
“It is perfectly fine to wash in, to wash your clothes in, to wash your dishes in, all that sort of thing,” he said.
“Really, the only thing you should not be doing is drinking it.
“Basically, that’s the recommendation.”
The Environment Department says residents of the small community, about 80 kilometres south of Darwin, may need professional help to manage the level of arsenic in their drinking water but it is unlikely to be a long-term problem.
Department executive director Graham Phelps says it is unlikely to be a long-term problem for residents.
“We have advised the body corporate there to engage a consultant to address this water quality issue,” he said.
“It is the sort of thing that, with appropriate measures, can be managed properly.
The Lake Bennett Resort says it does not use water from a bore that showed high levels of arsenic.
Resort manager Christine Brown says she was surprised to hear the results but said the bore has no connection with the resort.
“All the drinking water for the resort is trucked in and we use bottled water,” she said.
But she worries that the reports may affect visitor numbers to the popular tourist resort.
“Just the connection of having Lake Bennett Resort and this issue in the same sentence is very worrying,” she said.
“We need to make sure that people understand that we have got nothing to do with this.”
Meanwhile, an environmental scientist says the tests showing high levels of arsenic in the bore water could be an anomaly.
University of South Australia professor Ravi Naidu says arsenic occurs naturally in some parts of Australia and levels often fluctuate.
“At this stage, I would not be alarmed,” he said.
However, he said bore water in the area should be monitored.
“If these readings are consistently higher than the Australian drinking water standards and people are drinking this water then I would be concerned,” he said.