2006-2017 – Kempsey (New South Wales) – Cyanobacteria, E.coli, Lead, Aluminium, Turbidity, Iron, Copper

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2006 – 2013 Kempsey (New South Wales) – E.coli
Maximum level 110 (mpn 100/mL). 2 exceedences out of 1727 samples
“E.coli

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

Kempsey (NSW) Lead

2006/13 – Kempsey (NSW) – Lead 0.018mg/L (max). 1 exceedence from 86 samples

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

Kempsey (New South Wales) – Aluminium

2006/13: Kempsey (New South Wales) Aluminium 0.68mg/L (max), 0.07mg/L (mean)
Australian Guideline: Aluminium

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.

2006/13 – Kempsey (New South Wales) – Turbidity

2006/13: Kempsey (New South Wales) – Turbidity 5.9NTU (max), 0.87NTU (mean)

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

2006/13 Kempsey (New South Wales) – Iron

2006/13: Kempsey (New South Wales)  – Iron 0.32mg/L (max), 0.05mg/L (mean)

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

Kempsey (New South Wales) – Copper

2006/13: Kempsey (New South Wales) Copper 2.67mg/L (max), 0.012mg/L (mean). 1 exceedence from 86 samples

Based on health considerations, the concentration of copper in drinking water should not
exceed 2 mg/L.
Based on aesthetic considerations, the concentration of copper in drinking water should
not exceed 1 mg/L.

Copper is widely distributed in rocks and soils as carbonate and sulfide minerals.

Copper is relatively resistant to corrosion and is used in domestic water supply pipes and fittings. It is also used in the electroplating and chemical industries, and in many household goods. Copper sulfate is used extensively to control the growth of algae in water storages.

Copper is present in uncontaminated surface waters at very low concentrations, usually less than 0.01 mg/L. The concentration can rise substantially when water with a low pH and hardness remains in stagnant contact with copper pipes and fittings. Under these conditions, the concentration of copper can reach 5 mg/L or higher. In one extreme case overseas, a concentration of 22 mg/L was reported.

Drinking water repeatedly contaminated with pathogens in rural NSW towns

9 October 2017: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-06/drinking-water-contaminated-with-pathogens-in-nsw-towns/8875464

NSW Health documents obtained by the ABC reveal areas where deadly pathogens are regularly detected at dangerous levels in unfiltered drinking water pumped from rivers, lakes and dams.

The water safety reports, obtained after a lengthy freedom-of-information battle, also show more than 100,000 NSW residents were issued protective boil-water alerts in the last five years.

Grafton, Kempsey, Scone, Jindabyne and Bega are cited as the five worst-performing areas, with repeated “contamination incidents” triggering “potential health risks”.

Around Grafton, a population of 40,000 are at risk from cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes gastrointestinal illness.

Residents have faced 10 boil-water alerts since 2006, issued “in response to the inability of the water supply system to manage risks”.

The documents say faecal contamination from cattle, and even swimmers along the lower Clarence River catchment, is the parasite’s source.

Similar problems plague the Bemboka River catchment, near Bega, with four boil-water alerts issued by Bega Valley Council in 10 years.

Deadly bugs originate in “onsite sewerage system discharges”, “failures and presence of septic systems” and from dairy farms upstream.

The documents say “chlorine-resistant pathogens” — not killed by chemical treatments — are a threat to more than 40,000 people.

Around Kempsey, the risk identified is cyanobacteria — a toxic blue-green algae that can shut supply for 15,000 residents.

Grazing dairy cattle and raw sewage discharges near the Steuart McIntyre Dam trigger algae outbreaks here.

Alarmingly, the documents say “all pathogen groups” including e. coli are present in Kempsey water, and that a further “vulnerability assessment” should be undertaken.

In the Upper Hunter, more than 6,000 residents in Scone, Murrurundi and Aberdeen are rated at “very high risk” from dangerous pathogens flowing from an abattoir and septic tanks in the catchment.

The alpine towns of Jindabyne and Barry Way also face a “moderate risk from the presence of cryptosporidium” as well as toxic “blue-green algae” in their catchment.

Livestock faeces, and sewage, including from the Perisher ski resort are blamed.

The documents also identify other communities with one-off water concerns.

Last year boil-water alerts were issued in Dubbo, as well as villages including Toomelah, Gravesend, and Jubullum.

In the Upper Hunter, more than 6,000 residents in Scone, Murrurundi and Aberdeen are rated at “very high risk” from dangerous pathogens flowing from an abattoir and septic tanks in the catchment.

The alpine towns of Jindabyne and Barry Way also face a “moderate risk from the presence of cryptosporidium” as well as toxic “blue-green algae” in their catchment.

Livestock faeces, and sewage, including from the Perisher ski resort are blamed.

The documents also identify other communities with one-off water concerns.

Last year boil-water alerts were issued in Dubbo, as well as villages including Toomelah, Gravesend, and Jubullum.

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

E.coli

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