Chlo­rine-free water wor­ries

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

NEW national guide­lines dras­ti­cally re­duce the like­li­hood of Dou­glas re­gion res­i­dents throw­ing back a cool glass of unchlo­ri­nated water - at least while Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil re­fuses to pay for the re­quired main­te­nance of the treat­ment plant.

The new Aus­tralian Drink­ing Water Guide­lines (ADWG) were sent out by the Depart­ment of Environment and Re­source Man­age­ment (DERM) to all coun­cils re­cently de­tail­ing the im­pact of the up­dated guide­lines on the Drink­ing Water Qual­ity reg­u­la­tory frame­work for coun­cils.

At present all coun­cils must re­port the de­tec­tion of any sub­stance in drink­ing water above the ADWG health guide­line val­ues.

Water and Waste man­ager of the Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil Bruce Gar­diner said that it was “pretty much busi­ness as usual” for the way in which the coun­cil was treat­ing and man­ag­ing the water and the catch­ments in the re­gion.

“The only real changes so far, that we are still work­ing through, is a num­ber of is­sues deal­ing with mi­cro-or­gan­isms and an additional 130 pes­ti­cides,” Mr Gar­diner said.

“And a lot of those things do not ap­ply to our re­gion be­cause our water catch­ments are in iso­lated ar­eas and do not have any pesti- cides or chem­i­cals run into them from such prac­tices as farm­ing be­cause the catch­ments are not near farm­ing re­gions.

“Our only prob­lem is when we get heavy rain is it can wash dirt and any an­i­mal mat­ter into the catch­ments but this is stopped from get­ting into peo­ple’s water by all of our pro­tec­tion sys­tems that we have in place such as our ul­tra fil­tra­tion, UV dis­in­fec­tion and chlo­ri­na­tion sys­tems.”

And for the many peo­ple who want their water re­turned to them with­out be­ing chlo­ri­nated, it sim­ply will not hap­pen, Mr Gar­diner said.

“We have taken the view (at coun­cil) we would rather be safe than sorry and chlo­rine is just one of the many water pro­tec­tion mea­sures we use and we will con­tinue to chlo­ri­nate the water sup­plies for the CRC re­gion,” Mr Gar­diner said.

Mean­while, Aus­tralia’s pre­em­i­nent water sci­en­tist Pro­fes­sor Don Bur­sill said if the in­tegrity of the water de­liv­ery sys­tem is in doubt or can­not be guar­an­teed then coun­cil needs to chlo­ri­nate as one of the mea­sures to keep drink­ing water safe.

“It is un­for­tu­nate that the water in the Port Dou­glas and Moss­man re­gions need to be chlo­ri­nated as the water does come from pris­tine sources but the down­side is that the water sup­ply is prone to be heated up by the hot­ter environment and this can al­low bac­te­ria to creep in,” Mr Bur­sill said.

“But the big­gest prob­lem is that I do not think coun­cil has ex­hausted all at­tempts at find­ing where the sys­tem is fail­ing and so have taken a less costly route to de­liver the water.

“If treat­ment plants were main­tained as they should be you would not have to chlo­ri­nate the water, but I would cer­tainly not ad­vo­cate its re­moval if the treat­ment plants and their de­liv­ery sys­tems are not kept in a pris­tine con­di­tion.

“The use of chlo­rine is a proven method to stop the re­growth of bac­te­ria once they have got­ten into the water.”

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