The 4350water Blog highlights some of the issues relating to proposals for potable reuse in Toowoomba and South East Qld. 4350water blog looks at related political issues as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Silence from Bligh government as bacteria resistant superbugs found in Qld water supply ...

Excerpt from Courier Mail:

Bacteria resistant superbugs found in water supply

By Des Houghton
20 February 2009

Flesh-eating bacteria resistant to antibiotics have found their way from hospital sewers into rivers and streams throughout Queensland.

Scientists who made the startling discovery in 2006 have expressed alarm that the State Government failed to follow up their report or act on their recommendations.

Secret tests on waste water discharged from 28 Queensland hospitals and clinics revealed the widespread presence of MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (Vancomycin resistant Enterococci).

However there was no evidence the potentially lethal organisms had made their way into drinking water.

A Central Queensland University scientist who helped carry out the research told me 97 per cent of hospital sewage discharge lines tested positive for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

He said 70 per cent of hospital discharges tested positive for both MRSA and VRE.

"We got a lot more of those bacteria than we thought possible," he said.

"The MRSA and VRE are a major source of deaths from medical infections.

"Even though they have passed through a treatment process, the bacteria are most likely getting back into natural waterways, dams and ponds used for swimming, boating, fishing and in food production.

"Strangely, they are not routinely tested in water management systems.

"A sample can come back lacking in, for instance, E. coli bacteria, so it's wrongly assumed it's safe."

The results of the tests were tabled in Parliament by Dr Bruce Flegg (LNP, Moggill) in 2007 but went unreported perhaps due to their technical nature.

The report sat in limbo until it was tabled again last week by Rob Messenger (LNP, Burnett) who asked Health Minister Stephen Robertson to explain why it cost taxpayers $2.6 million when the university got only $107,000 for researching and writing it.

As well as the deadly microbes resistant to antibiotics, the scientists led by William Sinclair, Ben Kele and Barry Hood revealed the presence of 56 chemicals and heavy metals - some highly toxic - in hospital waste water.

The report noted: "The presence of these organisms at the point of wastewater entry into the council sewerage system indicates it is likely they will routinely be washed into the general wastewater stream, which flows to the community treatment facility.

"The fate of these organisms is a primary concern.

"Are they removed from the 'treated' water or do they pass through the treatment process and into the 'treated' outflow?

"If they are retained in the treatment system what happens to them - are they destroyed or do they form part of the microbial community associated with the facility?"

Checks were done at nearly 180 remote and regional hospitals and community health centres and dental clinics.

The hospitals where MRSA or VRE or both were found were listed as Kilcoy, Moura, Yeppoon, Weipa, Charters Towers, St George, Ayr, Emerald, Dalby, Thursday Island, Kingaroy, Boonah, Biloela, Babinda, Texas, Surat, Blackwater, Moranbah, Maleny, Gordonvale, Oakey, Mapoon, Ravenshoe, New Mappoon, Whitsunday and Proserpine.

The university's study is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.

I understand the findings have been verified by the CSIRO.

The report was completed in 2006 and became the centre of a Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation.

During the investigation the anti-corruption watchdog raided the homes and offices of at least four businessmen with links to the Australian Labor Party.


Shamefully, the report was not released by the State Government and the scientists doubt if any of their recommendations were implemented.

"There was a wall of silence," one scientist said.

"We heard nothing."

Mr Messenger said he was appalled the Health Minister was doing exactly the opposite to what he promised in Parliament by dismissing the issue and sweeping it under the carpet.

In the US, medical journals have likened the arrival of the MRSA "superbug" to the AIDS epidemic.

At a recent conference on infectious diseases in Cairns, the principal scientist at Royal Perth Hospital, Geoffrey Coombs, said MSRA was one of the biggest bacterial threats to humanity.

One of the country's leading water experts assures me Queensland's drinking water is free of dangerous bacteria.

Don Bursill from the National Health and Medical Research Council said although super bugs such as golden staph might be occurring environmentally, they did not survive the drinking water treatment process.

"None of these pathogens which have developed this resistance are surviving in public water supplies," Professor Bursill said.

He was confident the final chlorine and ultraviolet light treatments kept drinking water safe.


See - Courier Mail - Bacteria resistant superbugs found in water supply.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this report was never made public how can Bursill say that it's safe.
If this information was made available in 2006 the Poll taken by the Toowoomba community would have come back with a stronger no vote!

This really proves that this government will lie and deceive to have their own way.

12:21 PM, February 22, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article does say - However there was no evidence the potentially lethal organisms had made their way into drinking water.

1:19 PM, February 22, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It says.
"We got a lot more of those bacteria than we thought possible" he said.(Central Qld. University scientist).
" The MRSA and VRE are a major source of death from medical infections".
" Strangely, they are not routinely tested in the water management systems."

I doubt that we are safe from processed sewage in dams and governments should not proceed with this world wide experiment.

6:31 PM, February 22, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to hear what Prof Collignon has to say because they go on to say in that article " A sample can come back lacking in, for instance, E coli bacteria, so it's wrongly assumed it's safe".

One scientist says " There was a wall of silence."
"We heard nothing."


Where are these scientists now?

6:42 PM, February 22, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But if these things are in our water now, why aren't there people dying?

9:11 PM, February 22, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toowoomba has had a lady die at the Base hospital from MRSA in recent times and they have no clue as to where it come from and she was healthy.

7:34 AM, February 23, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most people are drinking from tanks or they are buying bottled water.

8:40 AM, February 23, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Toowoomba is at the top of the water flow. There is no treated sewage in Toowoomba's water supply. That was the whole argument against putting recycled water in it. So the woman in Toowoomba who died from MRSA couldn't have got it from hospital waste going into the rivers.

10:21 AM, February 23, 2009

 

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