The community wants clean and chemically free water. I do too. Water
quality and safety is crucial to both our healthy tropical lifestyle
and the success of the entire region as a first class tourist
destination. I believe that ‘chemical free water’ is an important
‘selling point’, and an inherent part of cherishing our pristine
“Bacteria counts have exceeded health guidelines on a regular basis
and the resultant risk to the community is too great to continue the
chemical free nature of the supplies”
Water Committee Chair Cr Paul Gregory
Prior to my announcement to run for Council I studied the Australian
Drinking Water Guidelines of 2008 and The Public Health Regulation
2005 and the Agenda of the Water Waste Committee 2009. I also
reviewed editorial comments regarding water contamination and safety
where the acting editor stated that Cairns Regional Council took
the easy way out by chlorinating the water supply. After reading
all these regulations and guidelines I realised that so many jump to
conclusions without doing the research. Council has to comply with
it's legal obligation to deliver safe water to the community.
I support chemical free water if it can be achieved to comply with
the Queensland Health standards within reasonable costs to
ratepayers. I also agree that ‘chemical free water’ can be a
‘selling point’ to market the region. As noted above it’s easy for
the candidates to state they support chemical free water for the
shire. It’s another thing to do the research and determine if it can
be achieved with a limited budget.
I invite you to read the below excerpts from the Agenda of Water
Waste Committee 2009 written by Bruce Gardiner, General Manager
Water & Waste Cairns Regional Council. Be informed about the
conditions to maintain a safe flow of water within your community.
Then we as a community can make an educated decision on how to
proceed with the clean and chemical free water issue.
Below is the link to the complete document.
Water & Waste Committee May 20 2009:
The water supplied to properties in Division 10 receives a high
level of water treatment through ultrafiltration followed by
ultraviolet (UV) disinfection. However, the UV disinfection process
does not provide any long-term disinfection once the water leaves
the treatment plant and enters the pipe network. The water is
therefore subject to potential contamination from water pipes break,
contamination in reservoirs, backflow of
contaminated water into the system, or if water sits stagnant in
water pipes on your property.
Even though Council has implemented a drinking water quality
management plan and staff have maintained the pipe network and
reservoirs to a high standard, water in the supply system has failed
to meet drinking water health standards on a number of occasions. As
a result Queensland Health and the Office of the Drinking Water
Regulator have directed Council to take action to ensure that the
water supplied to customers is safe.
The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2008)
No sample of drinking water should contain any E Coli
The Public Health Regulation (2005)
Section 18ACc of the Public Health Regulation (through reference to
schedule 3A) states that E Coli must not be detected be detected in
a drinking water supply. Under the provisions of the Health Act
(2005) it is an offence to supply unsafe water:
S57 C When drinking water is unsafe
Drinking water is unsafe at a particular time if it would be likely
to cause physical harm to a person who might later consume it,
assuming nothing happened to it after that particular time and
before being consumed by the person that would prevent it being used
for its intended use.
S57E Supply of unsafe drinking water
A drinking water service provider must not supply drinking water
that the provider knows, or reasonably ought to know, is unsafe.
Maximum penalty - 3000 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment
The standard test for E Coli requires a 100ml sample to be filtered
and incubated overnight in a laboratory. If 1 or more bacterial
colonies form, then this it taken to be the number of organisms in a
100ml sample. Hence if 1 E Coli is found from a 100ml water sample
taken from a 10 million litre reservoir (eg Reef Park reservoir),
then it is possible that there will be up to 100 million bacteria in
that reservoir together with any other
contaminants (eg bacteria, viruses, pathogens) present in the faecal
matter that may be associated with the E Coli.
Queensland Health has advised:
I remind you that Queensland Health is obligated to enforce the
aforementioned legislation and whilst we would rather resolve this
issue in partnership with Council's, we may have no alternative but
to proceed to enforce the Public Health Act 2005, if this supply
continues to fail the prescribed microbiological standard.
Following the construction of the water treatment plants in October
2004, Douglas Shire undertook routine water testing in the pipe
network generally on a monthly basis at up to 12 locations which did
not include reservoirs. Water testing did result in the occasional E
Coli failure but upon re-testing results were clear.
Douglas Shire Council did not test water in the reservoirs. The
first time the reservoirs were tested in August last year, 7 out of
13 failed the Drinking Water Guidelines. Reservoirs are the main
potential source of contamination into the water system. This
resulted in a boil water alert being put in place until reservoirs
were maintained and water testing results where clear of
It is therefore highly likely that there have always been low levels
of E Coli in the water supply at times but the testing regime has
not detected it. This is particularly more likely where the state of
repair and cleanliness of some of the reservoirs was less than
Requirements for reporting water quality failures have come in to
force on 1 January 2009 under the provisions of the Water (Safety
and Reliability) Act 2008. This requires Council to report any
failures to the regulator who is then able to take action as they
see fit to ensure water provided to consumers is safe.
The World Health Organisation guidelines state:
The estimated risks to health from disinfectants and their
by-products are extremely small in comparison to the real risks
associated with inadequate disinfection, and it is important that
disinfection should not be compromised in attempting to control such
by-products. The destruction of microbial pathogens through the use
of disinfectants is essential for the protection of public health.”
As the Port Douglas supply has not been subjected to chlorine
disinfection, there is a high likelihood that there are biofilm
growths at various locations in the pipe network. Biofilms are
structural communities of micro-organisms that attach to the inside
of water pipes. Biofilms contain a large percentage of any bacteria
that may be present in a water supply.
In the event that these biofilms come in contact with chlorine for
the first time, there is some potential for these organisms to die
and release taste and odour compounds that may lead to customer
complaints. This is expected to only be a short-term issue if at
Do you have issues regarding the Douglas Shire that you
think are important?
Let's start the conversation!