Chlorine-free water worries
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.”