IN HOT WATER
Boil alert backlash
WHEN the Dubbo Regional Council received phone calls from angry and concerned residents this week who demanded to know (mistakenly) how the ebola (yes, ebola) virus could get into Dubbo’s water reserves, two things were happening.
People were not being reassured by council directives or choosing not to understand the message conveyed.
“It’s a perfectly understandable reaction. Different people react in certain ways and it’s not surprising to us that there is this concern being expressed. We’re doing what we can to reassure people,” Dubbo Regional Council director of technical services Stewart Mcleod told Dubbo Weekender.
A boil water alert issued on November 7 quickly turned to alarm when residents understood the alert came two days after ecoli was found to be present in North Dubbo, affecting the Newtown and Myall water reserves which were being investigated.
“It was a low level detection and that won’t normally make you sick but it’s an indication that something had contaminated the water and it’s a standard protocol in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the Department of Health, and all Australian Water Utility guidelines that if there is a possibility of something which might having gotten into the water, we’re better off taking the precaution of asking people to boil the water,” he said.
“It’s an indication that Australian water standards are as good as any in the world. We aim to maintain that. It’s important for our customers to be reassured. We’re willing to impose this unpopular measure because we do want to take care of people’s health. If there’s any risk the water might contain something we’re not sure of, then we issue the boil water alert,” Mcleod said.
In answer to residents questioning why they have to boil water when they pay rates, Mcleod said: “This is a normal part of our us running a water supply. We you don’t like to have a boil water alert but it is standard operational procedure. It is simply part of us running a safe and successful water supply. It is part of what people are paying their water charges for. It’s an unusual occurrence but a normal way of of doing business. Thankfully it is rare,” he said.
In recent years year boil water alerts were issued by Walgett Shire Council (August, 2016), Bega Valley Shire Council (January and June, 2016), South Broken Hill (January 2015), Jenolan Caves Trust (January 2015), Cowra Shire Council (November 2014), Walgett Shire Council (April 2014).
“We’re certainly not on our own. There’s probably ten to 20 boil water alerts in Australia in any one year. It’s one of the last tools in the tool box. We show no hesitation to do it. Australia and Dubbo has world class quality water. We err on the caution,” Mcleod said.
The latest statement from council is that until further sampling is undertaken keep boiling the water.
“The standard procedure at that stage is to take further samples, begin flushing of lines and increase chlorine levels,”
“After a second, low level read of ecoli came through over the weekend, the same actions were continued and an inspection of the reservoir took place,”
“Further sampling was conducted on Sunday, and a teleconference was called with Public Health on Monday morning to call a Boil Water Notice as a precautionary measure while investigations continue,” Mr Mcleod said.
“Although there have been improvements observed since testing began, two clear samples need to be returned from NSW Health before the all clear can be given.”
“Obvious sources of contamination such as deliberate tampering have been ruled out so staff are conducting ongoing active investigations to isolate the source.”
“These actions are being undertaken by Council staff who are also consulting regularly with NSW Public Health and the Chair of the DRC Drinking Water Quality Committee Clara Laydon, who was brought on board as an independent advisor and to assist with collating data for reporting purposes.”
“I would like to reiterate that the processes that have been followed by Council during this period reflect the best practice of the industry and will continue to do so.”
The Boil Water Notice is currently in place for North Dubbo, west of the railway line, and Central and South Dubbo west of Fitzroy Street.
Testing for ecoli
LOCAL company Enviroscience regularly undertakes water testing procedures. When testing for the ecoli, Ken Archer from Environscience said: “Investigating faecal contamination in a water supply, a quantity of water is filtered onto a gridded filter disc. Which is then incubated onto a petri dish, generally chrome agar and incubated at 35 to 37 degrees for 24 hours.
“The presence of E.coli and/or faecal coliforms is an indication of contamination by Bowel flora from an organism. Typically this is found in sewerage ingress into houses or faecal contamination of bore water.”
E.coli and Coliforms are “signal” organisms indicating that there could be other pathogens such as Hepatitis A/B, or Giardia, Rotavirus etc. “
At this stage, all indicators are showing contamination in Dubbo’s water supply is low level and a source is yet to be determined.
Boil Water Alert lifted for South and Central Dubbo
DUBBO Regional Council director of technical services Stewart Mcleod advises that the area affected by the Boil Water Notice has been reduced after extensive investigations and testing were carried out to identify and isolate the contamination.
“Council, in consultation with NSW Health, are pleased to say that the reticulated water supply system for South and Central Dubbo can now be declared normal,” Mr Mcleod said.
“The Boil Water Notice is still in place for North Dubbo as inspections conducted on Wednesday afternoon at the Myall Street Reservoir discovered evidence of birdlife. Roosting birds and nests in reservoirs are known to cause contamination of this kind
“For the area served by the Myall Street Reservoir, which is North Dubbo, the Boil Water Notice will remain in place while reservoir cleaning and further sampling are undertaken.
“Staff have been following anti-contamination procedures since last Thursday when the first failed water sample was received, with low levels of E. coli detected,” Mr Mcleod said.
“After a second, low level read of E coli came through over the weekend, the same actions were continued and an inspection of the reservoir took place.”
“Further sampling was conducted on Sunday, and a teleconference was held with NSW Health on Monday morning at which a Boil Water Notice was put in place while investigations continued,” Mr Mcleod said.
“Although there have been improvements observed overall since testing began, Council will continue to work with NSW Health to ensure the system has returned to normal before the boil water alert is lifted.
“I would like to reiterate that the processes that have been followed by Council during this period reflect the best practice of the industry and will continue to do so, and we appreciate your patience as we work to rectify this situation.”
For more information and an updated map of the affected area, please visit Council’s website.
Cbd-based Dr Amal Tadros brought water to work