2005-10 + 2011/13: Hamilton (Victoria). Aluminium, Acrylamide, Ammonia

Hamilton (Victoria) – Aluminium

Aluminium: ADWG Guideline = 0.2mg/L(acid soluble).
Extremely high levels of aluminium (up to 19mg/L – 95 times higher than the regulatory standard) were recorded in the Victorian town of Hamilton between 2007-2010). Approximately 110 detections during this time at Hamilton above 0.5mg/L

Top Ten Aluminium Detections Hamilton 2007-10

2/7/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 19mg/L (Reticulation)

18/9/07: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 17mg/L (Reticulation)

28/11/07: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 17mg/L (Reticulation)

6/8/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 15mg/L (Reticulation)

17/9/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 9.3mg/L (Reticulation)

8/10/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 7.1mg/L (Reticulation)

20/8/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 6mg/L (Water Treatment Plant)

30/7/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 5.3mg/L (Water Treatment Plant)

30/10/07: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 4.9mg/L (Reticulation)

14/8/08: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 4.5mg/L (Water Treatment Plant)

Highest Hamilton Aluminium Levels outside of 2007-10

2005/06: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 0.38mg/L (Highest Level)

2012/13: Hamilton (Victoria) Aluminium 0.28mg/L (Highest Level)

Elevated Aluminium content in drinking water is quite common in Victoria. According to Wannon Water “Typically the raw water entering the Hamilton Water Treatment Plant has been from surface run-off, but due to the drought, water was required to be sourced from groundwater bores located in the catchment area. To sustain water reserves, water harvesting from the catchment focussed on capturing as much water as possible. As a result, the quality of raw water entering the water treatment plant has deteriorated to the point where it is outside the design specifications for the water treatment plant. Design issues with the water treatment plant have also hindered optimum performance” Wannon Water Water Quality Report 2009.

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.

Hamilton (Victoria) – Acrylamide

4/8/2009: Hamilton (Victoria) – Acrylamide 0.0003mg/L

Based on health considerations, the concentration of acrylamide in drinking water should
not exceed 0.0002 mg/L.

Acrylamide occurs as a minor impurity in polyacrylamide. It may be present in drinking water through the use of polyacrylamides as flocculant aids in water treatment, and through the use of grouting agents containing polyacrylamide. Overseas studies have reported concentrations of up to a few micrograms per litre in drinking water.
When nonionic or anionic polyacrylamides are used in water treatment at a typical dose level of 1 mg/L, the maximum theoretical concentration of acrylamide has been estimated at 0.0005 mg/L, with practical concentrations 2–3 times lower. Residual levels of acrylamide from the use of cationic polyacrylamides may be higher.
Concern over the health effects of acrylamide has led some countries to introduce tight restrictions on its use for water treatment. Polyacrylamide is used in food processing and exposure to acrylamide may also occur from this source.
Acrylamide has not been found in Australian drinking waters. It is included here to provide guidance in the unlikely event of contamination, and because it has been detected occasionally in drinking water supplies overseas. ADWG 2011

Hamilton (Victoria) – Ammonia

2011/12: Hamilton (Victoria)  – Ammonia 0.75mg/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