Tougher wa­ter rules

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

AUS­TRALIA’S top wa­ter qual­ity ex­pert has re­jected sug­ges­tions new guide­lines would “wa­ter down” qual­ity stan­dards.

Pro­fes­sor Don Bur­sill, who car­ried out an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Dou­glas re­gion’s wa­ter sup­ply net­work last year, said it was “ridicu­lous” to say wa­ter qual­ity guide­lines were be­ing re­laxed in the new guide­lines, ex­pected to come into force by the end of the year.

“There’s been no re­lax­ation of the guide­lines,” Prof Bur­sill said. “If any­thing, we’ve made things tougher, to en­sure an even higher qual­ity of drink­ing wa­ter.

“The cur­rent guide­lines, and the new guide­lines, both de­mand 100 per cent com­pli­ance.”

A front-page ar­ti­cle in the Aus­tralian news­pa­per last week sug­gested the new guide­lines would al­low wa­ter util­i­ties such as Cairns Wa­ter to pass muster with an e-coli con­tam­i­na­tion rate of 2 per cent.

How­ever, Prof Bur­sill said the goal­posts on e-coli had not been moved.

“Any e-coli de­tec­tion re­quires im­me­di­ate fol­lowup,” Prof Bur­sill said.

“Some small sys­tems are only mon­i­tored once a week. In cir­cum­stances like that, it is pos­si­ble to reg­is­ter a false pos­i­tive.

“One false pos­i­tive in 52 tests is pos­si­ble, but it’s up to the reg­u­la­tor to de­cide whether any pos­i­tive read­ing is a real one, or a false pos­i­tive.”

Prof Bur­sill re­it­er­ated his be­lief the Dou­glas wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem should be able to carry out chlo­rine­free op­er­a­tions.

“With proper main­te­nance and man­age­ment, there shouldn’t be any pol­lu­tion con­cerns in the sys­tem,” he said.

“That leaves free-liv­ing or­gan­isms, which will be sup­ported by nu­tri­ents in the wa­ter. The main thing that counts against the sys­tem is high tem­per­a­tures.

“I’m op­ti­mistic that (chlo­rine-free) trial will have a pos­i­tive out­come.”

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