2013/14 – Thorpdale (Victoria) – E.coli, Lead

June 2013: Thorpdale – E.coli

In June 2013 an E. coli detection was recorded in the Thorpdale sampling locality, with a result of 1 organisms /100mL in sample reported which is reportable under Section 22 of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003. The sample was located at a customer tap. Compliance with the SDWR
for E.coli results was achieved in the Thorpdale sampling area even though positive results were recorded. The SDWR (2005) require at least 98% of all samples collected in any 12 month period to contain no E. coli. The percentage compliance for the Thorpdale sampling area for the 2012- 13 reporting period was 98.1%.
As per the reporting guidelines, only the customer tap non- compliance sample is taken into statistical consideration. Gippsland Water investigated the positive results and identified the cause was either sample contamination at the point of collection at the time of sampling, either due to contamination of the sample bottle or inadequate disinfection of the sampling equipment. Additional sampling training was provided to the water quality samplers and the techniques audited against established procedures for compliance. Additional samples were
collected within the reticulation immediately after the positive results were reported. None of the repeat samples indicated the presence of E. coli.

Escherichia coli should not be detected in any 100 mL sample of drinking water. If detected
in drinking water, immediate action should be taken including investigation of potential
sources of faecal contamination.

“Coliforms are Gram-negative, non-spore-forming, rod-shaped bacteria that are capable of aerobic and facultative anaerobic growth in the presence of bile salts or other surface active agents with similar growth-inhibiting properties. They are found in large numbers in the faeces of humans and other warm-blooded animals, but many species also occur in the environment.

Thermotolerant coliforms are a sub-group of coliforms that are able to grow at 44.5 ± 0.2°C. E. coli is the most common thermotolerant coliform present in faeces and is regarded as the most specific indicator of recent faecal contamination because generally it is not capable of growth in the environment. In contrast, some other thermotolerant coliforms (including strains of Klebsiella, Citrobacter and Enterobacter) are able to grow in the environment and their presence is not necessarily related to faecal contamination. While tests for thermotolerant coliforms can be simpler than for E. coli, E. coli is considered a superior indicator for detecting faecal contamination…” ADWG 2011

Thorpdale – Victoria – Lead

During the 2013-14 reporting period, one operation sample recorded an elevated Lead result on one occasion. As the sample was collected from an operational sample point, it is not included in the statistics above for the customer tap compliance results. In September 2013 a Lead non-compliance result was recorded in the Thorpdale sampling locality at an operational site, with a result of 0.036mg/L reported which is above the ADWG health guideline value of 0.01 mg/L.

Gippsland Water investigated the exceedance and identified that the sample with the elevated lead result also contained elevated levels of Zinc (0.16 mg/L) and Copper (0.55 mg/L). These results indicated that the brass sample point may have contaminated the water sample, rather than being actual representation of the water. The results indicate that the sample line may not have been flushed for a sufficient period of time prior to sample collection.


Based on health considerations, the concentration of lead in drinking water should not
exceed 0.01 mg/L.

“… Lead can be present in drinking water as a result of dissolution from natural sources, or from household plumbing systems containing lead. These may include lead in pipes, or in solder used to seal joints. The amount of lead dissolved will depend on a number of factors including pH, water hardness and the standing time of the water.

Lead is the most common of the heavy metals and is mined widely throughout the world. It is used in the production of lead acid batteries, solder, alloys, cable sheathing, paint pigments, rust inhibitors, ammunition, glazes and plastic stabilisers. The organo-lead compounds tetramethyl and tetraethyl lead are used extensively as anti-knock and lubricating compounds in gasoline…

Lead can be absorbed by the body through inhalation, ingestion or placental transfer. In adults,
approximately 10% of ingested lead is absorbed but in children this figure can be 4 to 5 times higher. After absorption, the lead is distributed in soft tissue such as the kidney, liver, and bone marrow where it has a biological half-life in adults of less than 40 days, and in skeletal bone where it can persist for 20 to 30 years.

In humans, lead is a cumulative poison that can severely affect the central nervous system. Infants, fetuses and pregnant women are most susceptible. Placental transfer of lead occurs in humans as early as the 12th week of gestation and continues throughout development.

Many epidemiological studies have been carried out on the effects of lead exposure on the intellectual development of children. Although there are some conflicting results, on balance the studies demonstrate that exposure to lead can adversely affect intelligence.

These results are supported by experiments using young primates, where exposure to lead causes significant behavioural and learning difficulties of the same type as those observed in children.

Other adverse effects associated with exposure to high amounts of lead include kidney damage, interference with the production of red blood cells, and interference with the metabolism of calcium needed for bone formation…” ADWG 2011