not Recycled Water
'Body tissue' risk in Queensland recycled
A LEADING authority on infectious diseases has called on the Bligh Government to reduce the dam level that would trigger the pumping of recycled water to southeast Queensland storages from 40 per cent to 10 per cent, claiming it would be difficult to prevent blood and body tissue being recycled as drinking water.
The University of Sydney's Ray Kearney hit out at the Queensland Water Commission for falsely claiming that hospital waste approvals were in place when the Government planned to add the effluent to drinking water supplies in February.
The Government postponed the plan after concerns were raised by microbiologists about the safety of the screening process, but it will be implemented when dam levels fall from their present 50 per cent to 40 per cent.
The Queensland Water Commission has repeatedly asserted that hospital wastes such as blood and cancer drugs would not be recycled as drinking water because strict approvals were in place at hospitals.
The Australian reported this week that a Queensland Health audit discovered that four major hospitals in Brisbane and Ipswich had faulty or no approvals.
Professor Kearney said he was appalled by the conduct of both the water commission and Queensland Health, which has refused to make public its audit report.
"It is despicable and reckless for a government authority to behave in ways that put the interests of public safety below the political interests of a government," he said. "The public has a right to be well informed about these issues."
Professor Kearney said the 40per cent threshold for adding recycled water to dams was too high and should be reduced to 10per cent or lower.
"Recycled water really should be an option of last resort, and it seems to me that if you've got dams 40 per cent or 50 per cent full, you are not in a last-resort situation."
The Queensland Water Commission declined to comment on whether it had established that the necessary hospital approvals were in place before claiming that they were.
Opposition infrastructure spokesman David Gibson said the Government should release the Queensland Health report. "You have to wonder, what have they got to hide?"
Queensland Health population health director Linda Selvey said the audit report would not be made public because it was "internal".
Greg Roberts - The Australian (9 April, 2009)
RETURN TO: RECYCLED