Is the Coff's Harbor Y2K incident real?
After receiving a note that the Coff's Harbor story had
not been verified (see below) I replied as follows. You make up your mind
what you think. -- Tom
Thank you for your note and very interesting research regarding the alledged
Coff's Harbour Y2K-simulated municipal water system poisoning. I am not
planning on removing the Coff's Harbour reference from my web site yet,
since all I have is contrary information; I don't yet know which information
is true. It would be VERY helpful if you or others nearby did some more
thorough research that would settle the matter once and for all. (I'm cc-ing
a colleague, Robert Theobald, who may have some friends there who could
follow up. Robert: Coff's Harbour is between Newcastle and Brisbane.)
As a long-time activist, the people I've learned to trust least are powerholders
who have a vested interest in denying evidence of things that would undermine
their credibility or control -- especially governments and corporations.
I am also aware that there is good reason not to blindly trust journalists.
(In fact it is smart to be cautious with all authorities with economic,
political, ideological, cultural or ego investments in a particular point
of view -- which includes most of us!) I would assume that you have similar
biases in this regard.
So when I step back from your evidence what I see is this:
A) an assertion by a journalist (and the paper that published it) that
unnamed agencies and officials did or felt certain things.
B) an assertion by a government official (a webmaster?!) that " As
far as we can determine [!]" the Coff's Harbour story "is a figment
of journalistic imagination." He goes on: "My office contacted
the journalist who couldn't verify the story." What EXACTLY transpired
between the government office and the (unnamed!) journalist? This government
official may be supplying valuable information -- OR he may be involved
(consciously or not) in a government coverup of potent information.
Neither the journalist nor the government official in this case is giving
adequate, decisive data. Is there a particular reason you chose to side
with the government?
While I certainly don't want to promote demonstrable lies, neither do I
wish to discredit possibly factual reports -- especially when they point
to deeper truths. In this case the deeper truth is the threat of environmental
catastrophe posed by Y2K. The Coff's Harbour story was one of the first
to alert us to this threat, now accepted by NGOs, industry associations
and government agencies here in the US. I won't let this story die easily,
although if it is PROVEN false, I will let everyone on my lines know about
In the meantime, I will post this correspondence on my site, since I do
not have the resources to do the needed verification. Visitors to my site
can then make of the story what they will.
Thanks again for the alert.
At 11:31 PM 3/14/99, Rainforest Information Centre wrote:
>Dear Tom Atlee,
>I emailed the webmaster ( Anthony.Gates@mail.ccsu.nsw.gov.au ) at the
>NSW Government's Y2K website about the story concerning Coff's Harbour
>water supply and Y2K. I have included my email and his reply with this
>Given that he believes, apparently with good reason, that the story
>"figment of journalistic imagination", I hope you remove references
>it from your website. I support what you are doing and I am concerned
>that publicising untrue stories will underminne your credibility.
>Rainforest Information Centre
>>>> Rainforest Information Centre <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Below is an excerpt from a prominent Y2K site in the United States.
>cites an article from the Sun Herald which claims that "enough
>chemicals would have been released into Coff's Harbour's water supply
>kill its entire population, under a test on the likely impact of the
>millennium bug." Can you tell me which government authority would
>have conducted such a test?
>Rainforest Information Centre
>Gary North's Y2K Links and Forums
>Summary and Comments
>(feel free to mail this page)
> 1998-04-30 11:18:05
> Toxic Catastrophe: A Y2K Water Utility Test
> Governments regulate public utilities. People assume that public
>utilities are safe because of this regulation. This faith in government
>will be tested in 2000.
>This was published in the SUN-HERALD, an Australian newspaper, on April
>26: "How Y2K could kill a town: Tests Reveal Potential Catastrophe."
>The story reports that state agencies conducted the test. It does not
>say that local officials did. Thus, the test was probably a simulation,
>not an actual test with real effluent. But as these stories spread,
>public will begin to have doubts.
>In the year 2000, these doubts will be confirmed.
>There is no Web link.
>* * * * * * *
>Enough toxic chemicals would have been released into Coff's Harbour's
>water supply to kill its entire population, under a test on the likely
>impact of the millennium bug.
>Simulations by State agencies on the impact of the bug, caused by
>computers' inability to recognize the date 2000, have highlighted the
>potential for environmental catastrophe. . . .
>Tests have been conducted by several State government agencies, with
>alarming results, as officials try to remedy the problem of computers
>and micro-processors not recognising the date 2000.
>When microprocessors at Coffs Harbour's water-storage facility were
>tuned in to 2000 dates in a simulation, the entire chemical holdings
>normally used in carefullly regulated amounts to purify water - were
>dumped into the water in one hit. Experts say this would have the
>potential to kill the town's entire population.
>The results of the experiment have intensified concerns in big agencies
>covering the police, Corrective Services, Health and Transport about
>what could happen on January 1, 2000.
>State Information Technology Minister Kim Yeadon has ordered all 400
>government departments and statutory authorities to report on their
>exposure to the so-called Y2K bug by June. He will deliver a report
>the problem, focusing on vulnerable utility providers - mainly water,
>gas and electricity - to Cabinet.
>A detailed timetable and list of priorities will then be developed to
>ensure NSW does not suffer bug-related breakdowns. . . .
>[Retyped from a faxed copy of the original newspaper article]
> Re: site comment
> Mon, 15 Mar 1999 17:18:18 +1000
> Anthony Gates <Anthony.Gates@mail.ccsu.nsw.gov.au>
>This story appeared last year and was chased up at the time. As far
>we can determine, it is a figment of journalistic imagination. I notice
>that neither the agency or the ubiquitous experts were actually named.
>My office contacted the journalist who couldn't verify the story. The
>agency would have been Coffs Harbour Council and they did not know
>anything about it.