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Australian Drinking Water Guidelines: Chemical FactSheets and Boil Water Advisory Notice submission

This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
NSW Health (on behalf of NSW agencies)
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Government Department – State / Territory
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Questions for BTEX
10. Do you have any general comments on the draft fact sheets for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes?: 
BTEX Fact Sheets The Greek letter Mu () should be used for micrograms (g). The English letter ‘u’ is used the draft (ug). Benzene. Typical values in Australian drinking water. The NHMRC may wish to note that concentrations of up to 2.7 g/L were recorded in a town water supply contaminated with petrol, and that ‘Known sources of groundwater and surface water contamination include leakage from sub-surface fuel storage tanks (do Rego & Netto, 2007 and Allen 2005). Allen K., Thorne S., and Byleveld P. (2005) You found benzene - where? Benzene in source drinking water in northern New South Wales. Presented at Australian Water Association Specialty Conference “Contaminants of Concern in Water”, Canberra 22-23 June. Australian Water Association, Canberra. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the consultation. Please contact me if you wish to discuss the submission. Regards Paul Paul Byleveld PhD Manager Water Unit | Environmental Health Branch | NSW Health Locked Mail Bag 961 NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2059 Tel. 02 9391 9835 | Fax. 02 9391 9960 | Mob. 0411 264 070 | paul.byleveld@doh.health.nsw.gov.au http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/environment/water/index.asp
Questions for Guidance for issuing and rescinding boil water advisories
16. Do you have any general comments on the draft document Guidance for issuing and rescinding boil water advisories?: 
The attached submission was prepared by NSW Health on behalf of NSW Government agencies and corporations with an interest in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Boil water advisories. The draft guidance is comprehensive and addresses the most relevant issues. Suggested changes and corrections are attached (word document with tracked changes provided to NHMRC) I recommend that NHMRC consider including an introductory statement that places the guidance in context, e.g. ‘This guidance will help water suppliers, in conjunction with public health authorities, develop protocols for boil water advisories.’ For more than 10 years, NSW Health has published Response Protocols to provide guidance on boil water alerts. Each year NSW Health helps water suppliers manage a number of boil water alerts. There are separate response protocols for Microbiological Quality and for Treatment Failure, Cryptosporidium and Giardia (see http://www0.health.nsw.gov.au/PublicHealth/environment/water/drinking_water.asp). The NSW Health protocols are currently being revised. Increasingly the focus in NSW is on performance of critical control points rather than testing for E. coli or pathogens. There are challenges in successfully communicating ‘boil water’ messages to consumers. Advice must be clear and easily understood. The wording and modes of communication are critical. The NHMRC may wish to consider publications in this field, including the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality (2011, section 7.6.1). See: Rundblad G, Knapton O, Hunter P (2010) Communication, perception and behaviour during a natural disaster involving a ‘Do Not Drink’ and a subsequent ‘Boil Water’ notice: a postal questionnaire study. BioMed Central Public Health. 10:641. Rundblad, G (2008) The semantics and pragmatics of water notices and the impact on public health. Journal of Water and Health. 6.s1:77-86. Karagiannis I, Schimmer B, de Roda Husman A M (2009) Compliance with boil water advice following a water contamination incident in the Netherlands in 2007. Eurosurveillance. 14(12). O’Donnell M, Platt C, Aston R (2000) Effect of a boil water notice on behaviour in the management of a water contamination incident. Communicable Disease and Public Health. 3(1):56-59. Creitkos M, Eastwood K, Dalton C, Merritt T, Tuyl F, Winn L, Durrheim D (2008) Household disaster preparedness and information sources: Rapid cluster survey after a storm in New South Wales, Australia. BioMed Central Public Health. 8:195. Byleveld P.M., Deere D. and Davison A. (2008) Water safety plans: planning for adverse events and communicating with consumers. Journal of Water and Health 6:s1–s9 I would like to discuss the following aspects of the guidance with NHMRC: - The recommendation to obtain clear E. coli or pathogen results on separate days. Experience in NSW suggests that this may not be necessary, given the increased focus on critical control points such as chlorine residuals. This is no longer an exceptional circumstance. - The precaution for toddlers and infants to be sponge bathed. This does not form part of current NSW Health or WHO 2011 advice. Perhaps this precaution should depend on the degree of contamination. - The recommendation to report the number of cases of illness. It is unlikely that this will be known at the time an advisory is issued. NHMRC may wish to include a brief recommendation for water suppliers and health authorities to consider advice that may be provided if there is no electricity. Following the Christchurch earthquake, advice was provided on disinfecting with household bleach. There is also relevant information in WHO 2011 (see 6.11, Table 6.1).

Page reviewed: 17 December, 2013