eFlash #585

eFlash #585

eFlash #585
Date: 15-Nov-2023


qldwater Submission on Improving Powers and Penalties of the EP Act | Regulatory Impact Assessment for hydrogen sulphide and chlorine | Service Providers share their experiences with Harmful Algal Blooms | Reflections on QWater'23 | Ixom Best Tasting Tap Water in Australia Competition | New Coordinator-General for Queensland | Olympic Games Legacy Strategy Released | UK Environment Agency in Court | IEA Update Highlights Role of Biomethane | Supporting women and girls in male-dominated industries 


1. qldwater Submission on Improving Powers and Penalties of the EP Act

qldwater's response to the Department of Environment and Science consultation paper on improving the powers and penalties provisions of the the Environmental Protection Act 1994 recognises that many of the proposed changes are positive and are intended to ensure the broader environment is sustainable against the needs of industry, but raises concerns that several of the proposed amendments are an over-reach, unnecessary, and/or may have unintended consequences resulting in business and operational uncertainty.

It asks for the urban water sector to be recognised as a critical stakeholder in the development of future tools and Guidelines and, as an addition (outside the scope of the consultation paper) requests an immediate exclusion from the 30% fee for local councils seeking major amendments to their Environmental Authorities.

qldwater members can access the submission here. (Log in first please!)

2. Regulatory Impact Assessment for hydrogen sulphide and chlorine

After many months of uncertainly, it has been confirmed that Safe Work Australia will be undertaking a regulatory impact assessment for hydrogen sulphide and chlorine.

Back in August 2021, as part of the review of the Workplace Exposure Standards for 700 chemicals, Safe Work Australia proposed new lower limits for hydrogen sulphide and chlorine. The urban water sector, led by WSAA, called for a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) to be undertaken ahead of any change to the limits due to the concern from the industry around the cost to water businesses to implement new practices, and the proposed timeline for compliance with those limits.

WSAA has provided the exact wording of the notification:

"Safe Work Australia (SWA) advised that all nine chemicals (benzene, chlorine, copper, crystalline silica, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen dioxide, and titanium dioxide) will require an Impact Analysis (IA) process to be undertaken.

SWA will commence IA processes on the changes to the WES for the nine chemicals, including liaising with the Office of Impact Analysis on the appropriate approach, given the significant stakeholder consultation and previous IA that has been undertaken. Should separate IA be required for each chemical, it is unlikely that these will be able to be undertaken concurrently due to the intensive resourcing required and the impact this would have on the progress of other important work. In this case, the Agency would develop the order of priority for the IA.

SWA have included an update on the IA process on the draft agenda for the upcoming SWA Members’ meeting on 7 December."

3. Service Providers share their experiences with HABs

The final webinar in our series on harmful algal blooms (HAB) featured presentations from two service providers with experience in the management of HAB.

Tania Strixner-Harvey from Mount Isa Water Board (MIWB) described the many steps that they have taken to manage HAB in their water supply system.

MIWB has been dealing with HAB for more than 10 years, which due to local climatic conditions can occur at any time of the year. The principal tool has been the installation of microfiltration units, which have performed well, treating source water that has had up to 6.8 million cells per millilitre of water! Incremental continual improvements since then have included measures such as aeration to prevent stratification of the water bodies and removing overhanging vegetation to minimise roosting opportunities for local wildlife. MIWB has also trialled chemical and ultrasonic methods for algal control and continues to monitor and improve its performance.

Trish Knavel and Laura Shiels from Townsville City Council talked about Townsville City Council’s experience with HAB, which began in 2018 with their first major bloom in Ross River Dam. Despite flushing of the dam by local flooding in 2019, the dam continues to be affected by seasonal HAB, including diatom blooms (a phytoplankton, rather than a cyanobacteria), which can severely impact filtration effectiveness due to the spiky nature of the diatoms, and even HAB of new species. The team has initiated a comprehensive Emergency Management Plan which incorporates a series of alert levels based on routine monitoring. 

Both of these presentations contain a wealth of information that you can watch and share from this link. 

4. Reflections on QWater'23

The AWA QWater Conference in Brisbane provided a great opportunity to catch up with some of our SPG and members and hear interesting presentations. Congratulations to Sean Askew from Bundaberg Regional Council who won the Best Paper Award for his paper Asset Upliftment Program for the Rising Generation of Treatment Operators and Maintainers.

Read about the highlights here.

5. Ixom Best Tasting Tap Water in Australia Competition

Water from Fraser Coast Regional Council’s Burgowan Water Treatment Plant will go head to head in the national water taste test competition on Saturday, 18 November.

The final will take place at the Lilydale & Yarra Valley Show in Victoria. All the best to FCRC, may the best water win!


6. New Coordinator-General for Queensland

Queensland has announced Mr Gerard Coggan as the State's new Coordinator-General. He commences the role in February 2024. He is currently in the private sector and has previously served a Deputy Director-General in the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning.

7. Olympic Games Legacy Strategy Released

Queensland Government has released Elevate 2042, a legacy strategy for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralymic Games with a focus on environmental sustainability.  

8. UK Environment Agency in Court

Campaign group ‘Fighting Dirty’ has initiated legal proceedings against the UK's Environment Agency (EA) and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs over the alleged lack of testing for microplastics and harmful chemicals in sewage sludge spread on land.

The group contends that the EA acted unlawfully by reneging on its previous commitment to legislate on toxic sewage sludge by 2023, a problem acknowledged as a potential threat to human health. The EA is responsible for regulating the use of sludge composed of processed sewage solids, industrial effluent and surface water run-off, which is sold to farmers by water companies and used as a fertiliser on agricultural land.  However, the rules governing the spreading of sewage sludge have remained unchanged since 1989.

A report commissioned by the EA in 2017 revealed that English crops were contaminated with hazardous persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins, furans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at levels that could pose risks to human health.  

In 2020, the EA outlined a strategy for safe and sustainable sludge usage, emphasising the “unacceptability” of the “do nothing” approach and pledging the introduction of regulations by mid-2023, which would incorporate sludge testing and regulation into the Environmental Permitting Regime (EPR).  Nevertheless, an updated strategy published in August 2023 removed the deadline, failing to provide any specific timeframe for action.

Research by the University of Cardiff and the University of Manchester revealed that UK soils have the highest level of microplastic contamination among European countries, with 500 to 1,000 microplastic particles applied per square meter of agricultural land annually. 

9. IEA Update Highlights Role of Biomethane

The International Energy Agency (IEA) on 10 October released its annual flagship report – the World Energy Outlook 2023. The report provides critical insights into the future of global energy through in-depth analysis and energy projections.

According to the IEA analysis, biogas and biomethane are the smallest part of the bioenergy supply chain but play a growing role in sustainable energy, with biomethane seen as a renewable replacement for natural gas that can use existing infrastructure. The report highlights a sizable global potential of around 300 billion cubic meters for biogas and biomethane production from agricultural residues and organic wastes (including sewage) near major pipelines. This presents a prime opportunity for large-scale development and injection into gas grids. 


10. Supporting women and girls in male-dominated industries

As part of the Women's economic security package announced in June 2023, the Queensland Government are in the initial stages of developing a grant program to support women and girls' participation and leadership in male-dominated industries.

To inform this development, the Office for Women are seeking industry input to understand current efforts to support women in male-dominated industries, including what initiatives have been working well, identifying gaps and priority areas of need, and additional opportunities.

There is a short survey to complete Monday 20 November 2023. If you would like to provide additional input, you are welcome to contact the Office for Women to arrange a time for further discussion. 


18 November - Ixom Best Tasting Tap Water in Australia Competition

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