Article from: The Australian

AUTHORITIES in Queensland have dismissed as obsolete a state government study that concluded there was likely to be a high risk of viruses, bacteria and other contaminants entering the drinking water supply through a recycled waste-water scheme.

The scoping study was commissioned in 2000 by the Queensland Natural Resources Department, when the Beattie government first began considering the recycling option as a solution to the future water needs of the state’s heavily populated southeast.

The Bligh Government has been on the defensive this week over plans to begin pumping recycled industrial effluent and sewage from the Western Corridor Recycled Water Project to Brisbane’s Wivenhoe Dam from early next year.

The Government has said advanced water treatment plants similar to those built in southeast Queensland have been in use overseas for up to 40 years.

The 2000 scoping study, prepared by Queensland Health Scientific Services and the National Centre for Environment Toxicology, was able to draw on the experience overseas.

The study said there would probably be a high risk of people contracting viruses from drinking recycled water. It said 15 genera of bacteria and two genera of fungi were most commonly associated with waste water.

There were also risks in drinking recycled water from parasitic invertebrates, and from hepatotoxins and neurotoxins, which could produce symptoms ranging from mild gastroenteritis to death.

Other potential contaminants included radioactive elements and organic chemicals. Pesticides, including organochlorines that had been banned for health reasons but were environmentally persistent, were another hazard. The study cautioned that little was known about the health implications of drinking recycled water.

“The lack of information in some areas reflects that little is understood of the health impacts without further extensive literature review and scientific study,” it said.

But Queensland Health population health director Linda Selvey said the report was obsolete.

“It should be emphasised that this was a scoping report done eight years ago and referred to potential issues and not to any particular recycling technology,” Dr Selvey said.

“It was not based on technology that became available subsequently that will be used in the western corridor project.”

Dr Selvey said the direct recycling referred to in the report did not have the benefits of the sixth and seventh barriers in the seven-stage treatment process being used in Queensland.

“Bacteria and viruses are effectively eliminated by this process,” she said.

Queensland Water Commission chief executive John Bradley said chemicals and other industrial contaminants would be removed during treatment.

“This technology is used in a number of other places around the world and has been the subject of extensive testing, which confirms its effectiveness in the removal of both biological and chemical contaminants,” Mr Bradley said.

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