Paluma (Queensland) – Giardia
Paluma sick of its water woes
A JUNGLE waterhole is making Paluma residents sick.
Residents of the mountaintop village deep in the rainforest, 90km north of Townsville, are fed up with the quality of the drinking water sourced from a weir blocking a small jungle creek.
Residents, including an almost non-stop stream of children from regional schools who stay at camps in Paluma, are drinking bottled water instead of the water locals say makes them sick.
Linda Radbone, 53, has had a severe bowel infection caused by the parasite giardia duodenalis twice this year. She said the sickness, commonly known as “giardia”, caused diarrhoea and debilitating stomach cramps.
The Townsville Bulletin visited the small weir on a creek in the rainforest from where the water is sourced. The waterhole looks more like a secret jungle pool than a town water reservoir. Locals say there is often a problem with the water, but add it seems to have been worse over the last two years.
“There hasn’t been much rain to flush the creek out,” Ms Radbone said. “We think there could be animal droppings in the creek, especially bird droppings.”
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said it was possible that bacteria in the water was coming from human or animal waste. She said council was investigating the possibility that septic systems close to the water supply area could be leaching into the creek.
“We don’t know this, but we are looking at all possibilities,” she said.
Ms Radbone said making things worse for her was the fact she was menopausal.
She said that due to the BPA (bisphenol A) which is a chemical oestrogen used in the manufacture of most plastic drink containers she could not drink the bottled water being supplied by council.
“I’m going through menopause and the BPA reacts with my hormones,” she said.
Ms Radbone said she was boiling all of the water she used for drinking and for washing salad ingredients.
“You can wash vegies that you are going to cook with the town water, but you can’t wash salads or anything like that,” she said.
Ms Radbone said she was boiling the local water and then filtering it before using it for drinking or for washing food.
“But you still have to shower. You have to be careful it doesn’t get up your nose,” she said. “It’s like living in a Third World country.”
Resident Bruno Arbidans said the town’s 24 permanent residents were doing the best they could. He said the “bug” in the water had been causing problems for the past six to eight months.
“I bring water back when I go to Townsville,” he said.
When the Townsville Bulletin was in Paluma a staff member from one of the government school camps was ferrying crates of bottled water down the street on a trolley for visiting students.
Large reserves of bottled water are kept in the community hall for visitors.
Cr Hill said there had been evidence in the water of both giardia duodenalis and the microscopic parasite cryptosporidium which causes diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.
“We haven’t been able to determine if the cryptosporidium is from human or animal faeces,” she said.
Cr Hill said council had spent $12,000 cleaning out the weir and had advertised for expressions of interest from companies that specialise in operating small remote area water storages.
Paluma (Queensland) – Cryptosporidium
“In recent years, Cryptosporidium has come to be regarded as one of the most important waterborne human pathogens in developed countries. Over 30 outbreaks associated with drinking water have beenreported in North America and Britain, with the largest infecting an estimated 403,000 people (Mackenzieet al. 1994). Recent research has led to improved methods for testing water for the presence of humaninfectious species, although such tests remain technically demanding and relatively expensive.
Cryptosporidium is an obligate parasite with a complex life cycle that involves intracellular development in the gut wall, with sexual and asexual reproduction. Thick-walled oocysts, shed in faeces are responsible for transmission. Concentrations of oocysts as high as 14,000 per litre in raw sewage and 5,800 per litre in surface water have been reported (Madore et al. 1987). Oocysts are robust and can survive for weeks to months in fresh water under cold conditions (King and Monis 2007).
There are a number of species of Cryptosporidium, with C. hominis and C. parvum identified as the main causes of disease (cryptosporidiosis) in humans. C. hominis appears to be confined to human hosts, while the C. parvum strains that infect humans also occur in cattle and sheep. C. parvum infection sare particularly common in young animals, and it has been reported that infected calves can excrete up to 10 billion oocysts in one day. Waterborne outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis have been attributed to inadequate or faulty treatment and contamination by human or livestock (particularly cattle) waste.
C. hominis and C. parvum can be distinguished from one another and from other Cryptosporidium species by a number of genotyping methods. Infectivity tests using cell culture techniques have also been developed. Consumption of contaminated drinking water is only one of several mechanisms by which transmission (faecal-oral) can occur. Recreational waters, including swimming pools, are an important source of cryptosporidiosis and direct contact with a human carrier is also a common route of transmission.Transmission of Cryptosporidium can also occur by contact with infected farm animals, and occasionally through contaminated food.” ADWG 2011
“Although known as a human parasite for 200 years, Giardia has been regarded seriously as an agent of disease only since the 1960s. It has been identified as an important waterborne pathogen, and linked to many outbreaks of illness associated with drinking water, particularly in North America. Although the importance of this organism has been established, there are large gaps in knowledge about it, and there are no tests for identifying the presence of human infectious species in water.
Giardia has a relatively simple life cycle involving two stages: a flagellate that multiplies in the
intestine, and an infective thick-walled cyst that is shed intermittently but in large numbers in faeces. Concentrations of cysts as high as 88,000 per litre in raw sewage and 240 per litre in surface water havebeen reported (Wallis et al. 1996). Giardia is typically present in larger numbers in Australian sewagethan Cryptsoporidium. Cysts are robust and can survive for weeks to months in fresh water.
There are a number of species of Giardia, but human infections (giardiasis) are usually assigned to one, G. intestinalis (= G. lamblia and G. duodenalis). G. intestinalis infections have been reported from domestic and wild animals, but the host range of human infectious species is uncertain. Although substantial advances have been made in the sampling and counting of cysts, there are currently no established methods to identify human infectious organisms in water. Waterborne outbreaks of giardiasis have generally been linked to consumption of untreated or unfiltered surface water and contamination with human waste.
Consumption of contaminated drinking water is only one of several mechanisms by which transmission (faecal-oral) can occur. Recreational waters, including swimming pools, are also emerging as an important source of giardiasis. However, excluding outbreaks, by far the most likely route of transmission is by direct contact with a human carrier. Transmission of Giardia can also occur by contact with infected animals and occasionally through contaminated food.” ADWG 2011
Chlorite: ADWG Health 0.3mg/L.
Chlorite and chlorate are disinfection by-products of chlorine dioxide disinfection process.
“… industry are having serious problems meeting chlorite/chlorate limits that were proposed in the new Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, especially for disinfection in long distance pipelines that are dosed with sodium hyptochlorite” pers comm 18/5/11.
“Chlorite occurs in drinking water when chlorine dioxide is used for purification purposes. The
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that chlorite is not classifiable as carcinogenic to humans and is listed in the Group 3 category. Changes in red blood vessels due to oxidative stress are a major concern with excessive levels of Chlorite in drinking water. According to the US EPA, potential health problems for people drinking Chorite above safe drinking water guideline include: Anemia in infants and young children and nervous system effects.” https://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm
“Chlorine dioxide (chlorite) is rarely used as a disinfectant in Australian reticulated supplies.
When used, the chlorite residual is generally maintained between 0.2mg/L and 0.4mg/L. It is
particularly effective inthe control of manganese-reducing bacteria. Few data are available on
chlorate levels in Australian water supplies….Chlorine dioxide, chlorite, and chlorate are all
absorbed rapidly by the gastrointestinal tract into blood plasma and distributed to the major
organs. All compounds appear to be rapidly metabolised. Chlorine dioxide has been shown to
impair neurobehavioural and neurological development in rats exposed before birth. Experimental studies with rats and monkeys exposed to chlorine dioxide in drinking water have shown some evidence of thyroid toxicity; however, because of the studies’ limitations, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions (WHO 2005) The primary concern with chlorite and chlorate is oxidative stress resulting in changes in red blood cells. This end point is seen in laboratory animals and, by analogy with chlorate, in humans exposed to high doses in poisoning incidents (WHO 2005).” Australian Drinking Water Guidelines – National Health and Medical Research Centre
“…Subchronic studies in animals (cats, mice, rats and monkeys) indicate that chlorite and chlorate cause haematological changes (osmotic fragility, oxidative stress, increase in mean corpuscular volume), stomach lesions and increased spleen and adrenal weights… Neurobehavioural effects (lowered auditory startle amplitude, decreased brain weight and decreased exploratory activity) are the most sensitive endpoints following oral exposure to chlorite…” https://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/water-eau/chlorite-chlorate/indexeng.
php#sec10_1Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
Reservoir level was reduced and fresh water added. This reduced THM concentration in the water. Work has since been carried out on the GAC with more frequent backwashing occurring. THM formation potential pre and post GAC is monitored closely.
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”. US EPA
Paluma (Queensland) – Lead
14/6/19: Paluma (Queensland) – Lead 0.01mg/L (max).
Lead, 0.01mg/L This was a new sample point and, upon discussion with Townsville Public Health, it was decided to monitor the sample point further rather than installing a new sample point. Twelve further samples have not detected lead and the original result is believed to be erroneous.
Lead Australian Drinking Water Guideline 0.01mg/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…ADWG 2011
Paluma (Queensland) – Turbidity
2014/15: Paluma (Queensland) – Turbidity 14.2 NTU (Maximum detection during year)
2015/16: Paluma (Queensland) – Turbidity 13.3 NTU (Maximum detection during year)
2016/17: Paluma (Queensland) – Turbidity 5.9 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
Paluma (Queensland) – Iron
2014/15: Paluma (Queensland) – Iron 1.7mg/L (Highest level only)
2015/16: Paluma (Queensland) – Iron 2.3mg/L (Highest level only)
2016/17: Paluma (Queensland) – Iron 1.5mg/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