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Expert warns that recycled water poses unacceptable health risks

Recycled water - experts arguing over safety

For the information of Queensland MPs, Councillors, Media and Public

Australian National University Emeritus Professor, Patrick Troy, an authority on water infrastructure, on the 29th October was widely reported (The Australian newspaper, Channel 7, 9 ,10 Television news and on radio) with advice that it was not possible to prevent potentially harmful organisms from entering southeast Queensland's water supply when recycled sewage is added to it in February.

The Courier Mail, however, appears to have not reported on this issue.

Professor Paul Greenfield, chair of the Queensland Water Commission Committee which advised the Queensland Government to proceed with the recycled water project, has rejected suggestions that the practice is unsafe. Professor Greenfield has stated that Peroxide and UV light will destroy all organic material (presumably that escapes through membranes ) but no mention of inorganic compounds was reported.

The Queensland Water Commission has in the past stated - there are 7 safety barriers and the first barrier is that no Hospital and Industrial waste goes into the sewerage system - this has been changed to "residential /industrial source control including hospital waste".

However, the very first barrier one is a barrier in name only, there is no actual control over hospital and industrial waste entering the sewerage system because hospitals and industrial areas do not have separate reticulation systems. Business owners in Industrial areas can purchase Trade Waste certificates to dispose of industrial wastes to sewers. There is no control over what happens in residential premises, there is no government monitoring of domestic sinks and toilets and there is no mechanical barrier to prevent any chemical substance (eg expired drugs) from entering sewerage.

On 4BC Radio (Thursday 23rd Oct am) Premier Anna Bligh said that hospital waste was required by law to be treated to " a certain level ".

Investigative journalists and others are urged to contact their local hospitals to find out what this " treatment " entails. They will find that the " treatment " is that part of the waste stream (almost certainly not toilet waste) goes through a greasetrap.

The rate of cancer is very high and increasing and many patients in hospitals are receiving cytotoxic drugs which will be excreted from the body in urine, faeces and vomit, which then enters the sewerage system via hospital toilets. It would be extremely unlikely that a greasetrap would be be able to remove cytotoxic drugs, and other chemicals such as antibiotics from the waste stream.

The presence of large amounts of excreted antibiotics in infectious Hospital waste streams gives great concern for the evolution of Super-bugs and Professor Troy's advice should be noted.

Many cancer sufferers receive Chemotherapy as Oncology Outpatients in chairs (virtual beds) and after treatment, return home, with the result that cytotoxics enter sewerage via domestic toilets.

Queensland Health does not currently know what actually goes into the sewerage system from Hospitals, but recent information from a public Hospital source is that the Qld govt is paying for a privately contracted survey to try and find out.

On the 22nd Oct a spokesman from the Deputy Premiers Office phoned Radio 4BC and claimed the Labor government went to the last election and was voted in with recycled water clearly on the agenda. He said people had voted for it. This has been pointed out by the radio host as being incorrect.

"We are being conned. The Labor Party did not go to the election with recycled drinking water on the agenda. Peter Beattie was emphatic before the last election. On Friday 2 June 2006 the Labor government released a statement which said "Premier Peter Beattie and the Minister for Water, Henry Palaszczuk said today that it was not government policy to place recycled water into dams across Queensland." (

Premier Bligh stated Oct 29th 2008 "there will be no going back".

Indeed, there can be no going back, the pipes are in the ground, the Queensland Tax payer has been committed to having to pay for the Water Grid (9 Billion dollars plus interest) for many years into the future. There is a solution however, to minimise risk to the population of SE Qld.

Recycled water is now being used to guarantee supply for Swanbank and Tarong power stations. A short spur pipeline line of only 6 kms is needed to place water in Atkinson Dam and this water can be used to guarantee water supplies for one of Queensland most important agricultural areas.

In Singapore recycled water is added into a small reservoir that is separate to the domestic supply. Only 1% of the Singapore domestic supply is comprised of recycled water. With only 1% added, it is obvious that recycled water is not needed to replenish the Singapore water supply, it does however assist the marketing of hugely expensive Reverse Osmosis systems and the promotion of the concept of placing recycled water into domestic water supplies.

The deliberate extensive addition of recycled water to domestic supplies as planned by the current Premier, is a world first. If there are accidents, mishaps or cover-ups, it could become a world worst. There are no safety studies that the Government can put forward, because there are no comparable situations.

The Liberal National Party (LNP) has maintained that adding recycled sewage to our drinking water supplies is an Armageddon solution, this was first admitted by Peter Beattie. The words sewage and sewerage have almost been removed from the Queensland Media's vocabulary, substituted by the euphemous phrase "purified recycled water" by promoters and sections of the media that will not report any negative stories. This is helping keep the public in the dark about where their water will be coming from.

The LNP as an alternative future government, is urged to help make the public aware that their drinking water under a Labor government, will be sourced from sewerage treatment plants. If the LNP remains committed to their policy that recycled water should not be added to domestic supplies, and makes it an election issue, it should be a winner to them.

Recycled water for industry? Great idea! Recycled sewage water for human consumption? Who came up with this insanity ?

This message authorised by M Haines a spokesperson for Queenslanders For
Safe Water (Air and Food) Inc. Media contact mob 0418 777 112

See also: "Queensland Premier Anna Bligh tells water plan critics she will drink recycled sewage" the Australian of 31 Oct 08 (including readers' comments), "Disease expert warns on recycled sewage" in the Australian of 30 Oct 08, "Bligh says academic ill-informed on water claims" in the ABC on 29 Oct 08, "WA slow to recycle sewage as drinking water" in Perth Now of 29 Oct 08, "Recycled sewage 'will have bugs', Queensland Government warned" in the Australian of 29 Oct 08, "Flush then drink in the Sunshine State" in the Australian of 30 Oct 08, "Water talkfest simply a farce" by Bill Hoffman in the Sunshine Coast Daily of 15 Oct 08

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Interesting article. I was up in Toowoomba when they were having the debate about this. In the Toowoomba situation it did seem like the council had explored a range of different options and found that recycled water was the best one for the situation. Another point that people have made is that people are already drinking recycled sewerage because towns on the mid-Brisbane river are already putting their sewerage into the river that is then being treated at Mt Crosby. However, it is a shaky argument that because something is already happening it should therefore continue to happen and happen on a larger scale. I think the point made about hospital waste is quite valid. Overall I'm a much bigger fan of water self-sufficiency, where people do not have to be dependent on massive government systems to get their basic needs e.g. rainwater tanks, local stormwater collection and reuse (for non-drinking purposes).

Gosh! I hope none of these experts ever travel overseas to such places as Britain, France, Germany, some of the USA and Asia who've been recycling water for years.
The term attention seeking nobodies comes to mind.

You don't seem to have been following the news lately, Rod.

The claim that everone overesas is using industrially recycled water is a lie peddled by the Queensland Government and the Toowoomba City coouncil at the time they tried and failed to win the supprt of Toowomba residents for water recycling in a 2006 referendum.

From "Flush then drink in the Sunshine State" of 30 Oct 08:

"PETER Collignon is a worried man. 'Nobody in the world has done what southeast Queensland is about to do,' says the eminent microbiologist and Australian National University professor of clinical medicine. 'What is about to happen is the reversal of 150 years of public health policy in Australia because sewage will be put into the drinking water of more than two million people. Everywhere else in the world, the emphasis is on keeping sewage out of drinking water. We should be concerned about what Queensland is doing, especially as it is being looked at by the rest of the country as a solution to water supply problems.'

"In February, southeast Queenslanders will become the first Australians to drink their own waste when 60 megalitres of recycled sewage a day is pumped into Wivenhoe Dam, Brisbane's main water source.


"Collignon insists that contrary to claims by the Queensland Government, the project is unprecedented. 'Nowhere in the world is the proportion of drinking water that is recycled sewage anything like 10 or 25 per cent. There's never been a population of this size that has been subjected to this.'"

"Collignon rejects government claims that a seven-stage treatment process will ensure the water is safe. He raises three major health concerns."

"Collignon says the technology is not available to detect minute quantities of viruses, some potentially fatal, which may enter the water supply. 'The quantity of virus must effectively be reduced 10 billion-fold to make it safe. If you have a 1 per cent leakage through a tear in the reverse osmosis membranes, then the water is not safe.'

"The second area of concern raised by Collignon is the delay of one or more days before the results of tests for E.coli and other dangerous bacteria can become available.

"'By that time, you will have substantial quantities of contaminated water in the dam and although you can do things to reduce the damage, there is potential for infections to get through. There will be no real time testing being done to get results immediately.'

"Third, Collignon says it is inevitable some antibiotics and other natural and man-made chemicals will not be filtered out. 'It is of concern if various estrogens and hormones are being recycled, and it is not good if antibiotics and other drugs are being recycled.'

From "Support wavers for use of recycled sewage water" of 1 Nov 08:

"The process of sewage and waste recycling being used in southeast Queensland is not used anywhere else in the world and, while the Government strongly defends the integrity of the process, there are doubters.

"This week, two academics from the Australian National University, Patrick Troy and Peter Collignon, cast doubt on whether the recycled water scheme was safe.

"Professor Collignon, one of Australia's leading infectious disease experts, argued that the technology did not exist to prevent recycled sewage from contaminating the water supply.

"Professor Troy, whose expertise is in planning, said the safety of recycled water had not been proved in any long-term epidemiological studies. 'It will not be possible to remove all biologically active waste molecules from the system,' he said. 'The probability is that something like 8 per cent of these impurities will get through, and that is assuming the system is working properly.'"

From "Health chief out of loop on recycling" of 4 Nov 08:

"THE bureaucrat charged with safeguarding the health of Queenslanders was not called on to approve the adding of recycled sewage to the drinking water of the state's southeast.

"The Bligh Government left Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young out of the approval loop on the Western Corridor Reycled Water Project.

"Instead, the scheme was given a health clearance by the Office of the Water Supply Regulator, an arm of the state Department of Natural Resources and Water.

"The revelation came as Dr Young's department admitted it did not know how much hospital waste would be recycled.


"(Queensland Health population health senior director) Dr Selvey said the quantity of hospital waste that was dumped into the sewage system -- and would therefore be recycled as drinking water -- was not known


"Australian National University microbiology head Peter Collignon said hospital wastes should not be included in recycled water.

"Hospitals have a high concentration of toxins and bacteria so there is a bigger potential for contamination," said Professor Collignon, also Canberra Hospital's infectious diseases director



He said recycled water in rivers in Europe had resulted in elevated levels of hormones, which had changed the sex of fish.

"We don't know what the effects on people are but the changes in fish suggest it is not a good idea."

I suppose you have been overseas studying their recycle Systems?, I doubt it judging by your stupid comment.

There's no question in my mind who's attention seeking here!