2005-2010 +2011/21: Balmoral (Victoria). Trihalomethanes, Ammonia, Iron, Turbidity, Total Dissolved Solids, Aluminium

Balmoral (Victoria) High Levels of Trihalomethanes 2005-13

2005/6: Balmoral (Triahalomethanes) 750ug/L (Highest Level Detected)

2006/7: Balmoral (Triahalomethanes) 740ug/L (Highest Level Detected)

2007/8: Balmoral (Triahalomethanes) 970ug/L (Highest Level Detected)

2009/10: Balmoral (Triahalomethanes) 260ug/L (Highest Level Detected)

2012/13: Balmoral (Triahalomethanes) 270ug/L (Highest Level Detected)

“Exceeding values for trihalomethanes (THMs) were recorded at Balmoral. Water sourced from
Rocklands Reservoir is high in dissolved organic material. The system is not fully treated, therefore upon disinfection with sodium hypochlorite, trihalomethanes are produced at levels which exceed the Safe Drinking Water Regulations. Construction and commissioning of a new treatment plant to reduce the level of trihalomethanes produced is scheduled for completion by June 2007.” (Wannon Water Water Quality Report 2005/6 p36).

“An undertaking was entered into between Wannon Water and the Department of Human Services to rectify the problem. This committed Wannon Water to finding an appropriate solution by June 2007. As a result, capital expenditure has been allocated to improve water quality. A full DAFF treatment plant is currently being tendered. Construction and commissioning are expected to be completed by June 2007.” (Wannon Water Water Quality Report 2005/6 p54/5).

“Prior to the construction of the Balmoral Water Treatment Plant, the water from Rocklands was
directly disinfected with sodium hypochlorite which resulted in the production of trihalomethanes at levels which exceed the Safe Drinking Water Regulations. Construction of a new water treatment plant was completed in January 2008. The new water treatment plant process involves coagulation, flocculation, dissolved air flotation, filtration and disinfection. The commissioning of this plant and the changing of the disinfection from chlorination to chloramination resulted in a reduction of the levels of trihalomethanes being generated. The water now complies with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2005.” (Drinking Water Annual Report 2007/8 p17)

“Figure 7 shows that in April 2008 trihalomethanes concentrations in Balmoral decreased from 0.4mg/L to 0.02 mg/L. This decline in concentration was due to the installation of a new treatment plant and changing the disinfection from chlorination to chloramination. Trihalomethanes levels have consistently been below 0.25 mg/L for the past two years. (Wannon Water Water Quality Annual Report 2009/10 p29)

Trihalomethanes Australian Guideline Level 250μg/L (0.25mg/L)

Why and how are THMs formed?
“When chlorine is added to water with organic material, such as algae, river weeds, and decaying leaves, THMs are formed. Residual chlorine molecules react with this harmless organic material to form a group of chlorinated chemical compounds, THMs. They are tasteless and odourless, but harmful and potentially toxic. The quantity of by-products formed is determined by several factors, such as the amount and type of organic material present in water, temperature, pH, chlorine dosage, contact time available for chlorine, and bromide concentration in the water. The organic matter in water mainly consists of a) humic substance, which is the organic portion of soil that remains after prolonged microbial decomposition formed by the decay of leaves, wood, and other vegetable matter; and b) fulvic acid, which is a water soluble substance of low molecular weight that is derived from humus”. Source: https://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminan

Balmoral (Victoria) – Ammonia

2011/12: Balmoral (Victoria)  – Ammonia 1.1mg/L (Highest level only – Ammonia as N)

Based on aesthetic considerations (corrosion of copper pipes and fittings), the concentration
of ammonia (measured as ammonia) in drinking water should not exceed 0.5 mg/L.
No health-based guideline value is set for ammonia. (0.41mg/L mg of Ammonia as N)

“…Most uncontaminated source waters have ammonia concentrations below 0.2 mg/L. High concentrations (greater than 10 mg/L) have been reported where water is contaminated with animal waste. Ammonia is unlikely to be detected in chlorinated supplies as it reacts quickly with free chlorine. Ammonia in water can result in the corrosion of copper pipes and fittings, causing copper stains on sanitary ware. It is also a food source for some microorganisms, and can support nuisance growths of bacteria and algae, often with a resultant increase in the nitrite concentration.” ADWG 2011

Balmoral – Victoria – Iron

2013/14: Balmoral (Victoria)  – Iron 1mg/L (Highest level only)

2014/15: Balmoral (Victoria)  – Iron 1.7mg/L (Highest level only)

Based on aesthetic considerations (precipitation of iron from solution and taste),
the concentration of iron in drinking water should not exceed 0.3 mg/L.
No health-based guideline value has been set for iron.

Iron has a taste threshold of about 0.3 mg/L in water, and becomes objectionable above 3 mg/L. High iron concentrations give water an undesirable rust-brown appearance and can cause staining of laundry and plumbing fittings, fouling of ion-exchange softeners, and blockages in irrigation systems. Growths of iron bacteria, which concentrate iron, may cause taste and odour problems and lead to pipe restrictions, blockages and corrosion. ADWG 2011

Balmoral – Victoria – Turbidity

2014/15: Balmoral (Victoria) – Turbidity 7.9 NTU (Maximum detection during year)

Chlorine-resistant pathogen reduction: Where filtration alone is used as the water treatment
process to address identified risks from Cryptosporidium and Giardia, it is essential
that filtration is optimised and consequently the target for the turbidity of water leaving
individual filters should be less than 0.2 NTU, and should not exceed 0.5 NTU at any time
Disinfection: A turbidity of less than 1 NTU is desirable at the time of disinfection with
chlorine unless a higher value can be validated in a specific context.

Aesthetic: Based on aesthetic considerations, the turbidity should not exceed 5 NTU at the
consumer’s tap.

Balmoral – Victoria – Total Dissolved Solids

2015/16: Balmoral (Victoria) – Total Dissolved Solids 660mg/L (Maximum Level)

2020/21: Balmoral (Victoria) – Total Dissolved Solids 683mg/L (max)


“No specific health guideline value is provided for total dissolved solids (TDS), as there are no
health effects directly attributable to TDS. However for good palatability total dissolved solids
in drinking water should not exceed 600 mg/L.

Total dissolved solids (TDS) consist of inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water. Clay particles, colloidal iron and manganese oxides and silica, fine enough to pass through a 0.45 micron filter membrane can also contribute to total dissolved solids.

Total dissolved solids comprise: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfate, bicarbonate, carbonate, silica, organic matter, fluoride, iron, manganese, nitrate, nitrite and phosphates…” Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

Balmoral (Victoria) – Aluminium

2007/08: Balmoral (Victoria) Aluminium 0.47mg/L (Highest Level Only)
2008/09: Balmoral (Victoria) Aluminium 0.88mg/L (Highest Level Only)
2010/11: Balmoral (Victoria) Aluminium 0.29mg/L (Highest Level Only)
Australian Guideline: Aluminium 0.2mg/L

According to the ADWG, no health guideline has been adopted for Aluminium, but that the issue is still open to review. Aluminium can come from natural geological sources or from the use of aluminium salts as coagulants in water treatment plants. According to the ADWG “A well-operated water filtration plant (even using aluminium as a flocculant) can achieve aluminium concentrations in the finished water of less than 0.1 mg/L.

The most common form of aluminium in water treatment plants is Aluminium Sulfate (Alum). Alum can be supplied as a bulk liquid or in granular form. It is used at water treatment plants as a coagulant to remove turbidity, microorganisms, organic matter and inorganic chemicals. If water is particularly dirty an Alum dose of as high as 500mg/L could occur. There is also concern that other metals may also exist in refined alum.

While the ADWG mentions that there is considerable evidence that Aluminium is neurotoxic and can pass the gut barrier to accumulate in the blood, leading to a condition called encephalopathy (dialysis dementia) and that Aluminium has been associated with Parkinsonism dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the NHMRC, whilst also acknowledging studies which have linked Aluminium with Alzheimer disease, has not granted Aluminium a NOEL (No Observable Effect Level) due to insufficient and contradictory data. Without a NOEL, a health guideline cannot be established. The NHMRC has also stated that if new information comes to hand, a health guideline may be established in the future.

In communication with Aluminium expert Dr Chris Exley (Professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry
The Birchall Centre, Lennard-Jones Laboratories, Keele University, Staffordshire UK) in March 2013 regarding high levels of Aluminium detected in the South Western Victorian town of Hamilton
“It is my opinion that any value above 0.5 mg/L is totally unacceptable and a potential health risk. Where such values are maintained over days, weeks or even months, as indeed is indicated by the data you sent to me, these represent a significant health risk to all consumers. While consumers may not experience any short term health effects the result of longer term exposure to elevated levels of aluminium in potable waters may be a significant increase in the body burden of aluminium in these individuals. This artificially increased body burden will not return to ‘normal’ levels when the Al content of the potable water returns to normal but will act as a new platform level from which the Al body burden will continue to increase with age.