Water Workforce Toolbox

Empowering Our People

Chemicals of Concern

Contaminants of emerging concern are an increasing issue for the local government water sector as community and regulator expectations increase and the ability to detect trace chemicals improves.

Costs of dealing with contaminant issues will increase but can be mitigated through joint action and collaboration in national and international initiatives for research, policy and advocacy. In 2019, the qldwater Sewage and Water Environmental Advisory Panel recommended the formation of a Consortium to influence state and national policy, research and communications to lead future discussions about contaminants affecting Queensland Water and Sewerage Service Providers, leading to the formation of the qldwater Consortium on or Research and Advocacy on Contaminants (qCRAC).

Follow this link for a wealth of resources relating to Chemicals of Concern.

Chemcical Concoctions Website

The group developed an educational website to inform people about the chemicals hiding in our homes, resulting in the Chemical Concoctions website. The website is focused on six classes of chemicals including PFAS, Antimicrobials, Flame retardants, Bisphenols and Phthalates, Microplastics and Pharmaceuticals that can be found in items around the home. It includes rollover images linking to more information in the following rooms:

From non-stick pans and baking trays to all those modern conveniences like microwave popcorn, plastic wrap and take-away food containers, our kitchens harbour a lot of nasties.

Flame retardants in curtains, rugs and furniture and volatile organic compounds in paint are included in the lounge room concerns.

The bathroom contains a whole host of concerns ranging from pharmaceuticals to beauty products and more.

The rugs, curtains and mattresses in our bedrooms contain flame retardants and "budget" furniture has led to unwanted furniture piling up in landfill.

The chemicals we use for cleaning and washing are displayed in the Laundry room.

The Garden Shed page lists things lings pesticides, herbicides and even microplastics from whipper snippers!

CC Website

Recycled Water

Analysis of current recycled water policy and regulatory framework in Queensland

Prepared by Dr Lynne Powell, this report contains a summary of the current regulatory and policy framework for recycled water from municipal sewage treatment plants in Queensland and includes findings from interviews with water service providers that operate recycled water.

Aligning Definitions of Recycled Water in Queensland

Prepared by the Sewerage and Water Environmental Advisory Panel (SWEAP) this discussion paper outlines regulation of recycled water in Queensland and recommends minor clarifications to often overlapping regulatory requirements for Water and Sewerage Service Providers (WSPs). This alignment is needed both to improve management and reporting and to increase the likelihood of safe water recycling. It is also the first step towards seeking broader agreement on riskmanagement practices (to be considered in a future paper). Highlighted terms in this paper are defined in the Glossary in Section 7.

Regulation of recycled water produced by WSPs is managed under three State Acts and five regulatory reporting frameworks under a raft of State and Commonwealth legislation. The regulatory instruments include multiple definitions of recycled water and the uses that it can be put to. The lack of consistency appears semantic rather than intentional, but still impedes management, use and particularly, accurate measurement and reporting of recycled water. A streamlined approach would facilitate greater safe recycling of urban water in Queensland.

The diverse existing definitions have several elements in common. This discussion paper proposes an overarching definition using a modified version of the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling (AGWR) definition. It is proposed that all regulatory instruments relevant to WSPs can be encompassed if recycled water is defined as:

“water generated from sewage, greywater or stormwater systems and treated to a standard that is appropriate for its intended use rather than discharge to land or water.”

The modification (in bold) explicitly aligns the definition with Queensland Acts and distinguishes ‘discharge’ from a beneficial intended use.

The inconsistencies in definitions relevant to Queensland WSPs can be overcome without legislative change through adherence to the above interpretations and agreement on a common classification for intended uses as proposed in the following schema. Following this agreement, the next step should be to provide further clarification on fit-for-purpose risk management and reporting of recycled water for different uses that is consistent with all current legislation and guidance.

Source Control

Turning off the tap

For some contaminants, for which treatment processes are complex and potentially costly, the most effective control method may be to control the chemical at the source before it enters the wastewater system. Interest in this area prompted a workshop in October 2021, jointly hosted by qCRAC and SWEAP.

Watch the recording

Six speakers provided a range of views on source control:

Dr Shaun Thomas (South Australia EPA) provided an update to the PFAS National Environment Management Plan (PFAS NEMP 3.0)

David Sheehan (Vic Water) on Understanding contaminant risks at Victoria wastewater treatment plants in an era of general environment duty

Dr Brad Clarke (Australian Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants) on PFAS in Australian WWTPs and Biosolids

Professor Jochen Mueller (Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences) on Why source control is key for (some) emerging contaminants of concern

Dr Susi Vardy (Department of Environment and Science) on Contaminants of Emerging Concern – GBR Catchments Preliminary results

Colin Hester (Urban Utilities) on Using trade waste agreements to manage contaminants in sewers

The workshop was summarised by our facilitator Dr Rob Fearon into the following, which fits into the portfolio approach to emerging contaminants SAFETI framework:

SAFETI Fact Sheet

The SAFETI framework

Source control

ECs can’t be banned but lifecycle cost needs to be ‘baked in’ (block chain approach?)

Residential vs Trade - variable but needs to be incorporated into risk assessments and responses including regulation

Update and use ‘old powers’ (e.g. Trade waste legislation)


Methodologies and tools are continuously growing but so is the number and diversity of contaminants of (emerging) concern

We are unlikely to be able to keep pace (particularly given substitution)

Fate & Risk

Not well understood, desire for better links between guidelines and health and environmental targets

How relevant are these questions given pressure for no additional chemicals?


Education & Communications

DAWE is looking at education but there is no focus on labelling at present

Who is the polluter and how do they pay for ‘forever chemicals’?


Split between biosolids and water – variability some unknowns

Balance between environmental costs of treatment and removal needs

Biosolids remediation – see SWEAP Treatment Workshop, CRC CARE, ARC Biosolids Centre, ALEC


?? Can we work together more as a sector ??

Latest Research

Chantal Keane, Futures Specialist Circular Economy at Urban Utilities, delivered an excellent presentation at the 2023 Annual Forum on findings from her PhD on Contaminants of Emerging Concern and the need for source control.

Chantal is currently completing a part-time PhD on contaminants of emerging concern in trade waste, with the hopes to inform source control strategy to effectively regulate and eliminate CECs from wastewater networks. Her past endeavours include developing the bench-top slosh box disintegration text for the Australian Standard for Flushable Products and subsequently winning the best paper award in 2022 at the Queensland Water Conference.

Download Chantal's presentation here.

Chantal Keane

Trade Waste

Sample Documents on Trade Waste

Thanks to Townsville City Council for sharing a range of trade waste documents with our members.

Find them under the Member Sample Documents tab of the Sewage Treatment page of the Resource Library.

Water Testing

The Central Queensland Trade Waste Interest Group meeting held at the Yeppoon Town Hall in 2022 included a range of interesting presentations including.

  • A keynote address by Mark Sherson from Urban Utilities
  • Assessing Trade Waste Applications under the Queensland Plumbing & Wastewater Code 2019 by Michael Willey, Livingstone Shire Council
  • Update to Sewage Quality Management Guidelines by Andrew Kirkwood from WSAA
  • Assessing Non-conventional Trade Waste Discharges by Ariane Leyden from Rockhampton Regional Council
  • Ultra Spin Technology - Treating Water with Respect by Ari Mehrsa from Toowoomba Regional Council
  • The Future of Trade Waste by Jane Doran from Gladstone Regional Council

Recordings of all the presentations are available from this link.