Following heavy rain within the Yass Dam water supply catchment, Yass Valley Council in conjunction with NSW Health has introduced a Boil Water Alert for Yass, Binalong, and Bowning.
Council has said that the Boil Water Alert is likely to be in place for at least one week and could be longer depending on how quickly things settle down after the recent heavy rainfall.
"More rain is predicted at the end of the week and this follow up rain may result in an extension of the Boil Water Alert, depending on its intensity," a statement issued by the council states.
Acting Director of Infrastructure & Assets, Steven Beasley said that there is no link to the discharge of partially treated effluent from the Lower Molonglo Water Control Centre by ICON Water on Sunday.
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"The drinking water supplying the towns of Yass, Bowning, and Binalong is drawn from Yass Dam. The majority of 'source' or 'raw' water supplies in Australia contain natural levels or organic and inorganic material," he said.
"The aim of water treatment is to reduce the levels of organic and inorganic material and, in particular, any material associated with pathogens such as protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.
"In the case of Yass, heavy rain caused raw water to become extremely turbid (not clear or transparent because of stirred-up sediment) and compromised the effectiveness of the treatment process.
"Council has a strict water quality management system in place at Yass WTP and turbidity trigger levels were reached, ultimately resulting in the issue of a Boil Water Alert in consultation with NSW Health."
Residents and businesses will be advised when the boil water notice is lifted through the council's website, Facebook page, and the local media.
NSW Health Advice - Boil Water Alert
Water used for drinking or food preparation should be brought to a rolling boil to make it safe. Kettles with automatic shut off switches can do this. Water should then be allowed to cool and stored in a clean container with a lid and refrigerated.
Bottled water or cool boiled water should be used for drinking, washing uncooked food (e.g. salad vegetables and fruit), making ice, cleaning teeth, gargling, and pet's drinking water.
Dishes should be washed in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher. Children should take bottled water or cool boiled water to school.
If you cannot boil the water, unscented household bleach (containing 4 - 5 per cent available chlorine) may be used. Add two drops of bleach to one litre of water (or four drops if the water is cloudy), mix well, and allow to stand for 30 minutes before use.
The NSW Health website also includes special considerations for:
Schools and childcare centres - https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/schools.aspx
Commercial establishments serving food or drinks -https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/foodfacts.aspx
Using water header tanks - https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/watertanks.aspx
Swimming pools and spas https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/pools.asp
Why has a Boil Water Alert been issued in consultation with NSW Health?
The drinking water supplying the towns of Yass, Bowning, and Binalong is drawn from Yass Dam. The majority of 'source' or 'raw' water supplies in Australia contain natural levels of organic and inorganic material. The aim of water treatment is to reduce the levels of organic and inorganic material and, in particular, any material associated with pathogens such as protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.
In the case of Yass, heavy rain caused raw water to become extremely turbid (fine suspended clay, silt, and organic matter) and compromised the effectiveness of the treatment process. Council has a strict water quality management system in place at Yass WTP and turbidity trigger levels were reached, ultimately resulting in the issue of a Boil Water Alert in consultation with NSW Health.
Is it safe for my family and I to drink the water, am I going to get sick if I drink the tap water without boiling it?
Consumption of turbid waters is not necessarily a health hazard, but may constitute a health risk if the suspended particles harbour pathogenic micro-organisms. To manage this risk, council chlorinates the water as per normal treatment practice in order to achieve what is called a "chlorine residual" in the water.
A chlorine residual in the water means the water continues to disinfect all the way to a customer's tap, making it difficult for any pathogenic micro-organisms to survive in the water. However, you must boil the water before drinking until further notice, in line with NSW Health advice based on the current elevated water turbidity in the water supply due to the recent rain.
How long will the boil alert likely be in place?
The Boil Water Alert (BWA) is likely to be in place for at least one week and could be longer depending on how quickly things settle down after the recent heavy rain. More rain is predicated at the end of the week and this follow up rainfall may result in an extension of the Boil Water Alert depending on its intensity.
Is it safe to bath/shower using my water?
Yes, it is safe to bath yourself and your children, shower and wash clothes. However, dishes should be washed in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher.
If I have a filter on my tap will my water still be affected?
Even if you have a filter on your water supply, we recommend all water coming from the tap be boiled prior to consumption, food preparation, cleaning teeth and ice-making until further notice, in line with NSW Health advice based on the current elevated water turbidity due to the recent rain.
What if I am frail or unwell?
If you are frail or unwell, immuno-compromised, have very young children or are pregnant, you should consider taking additional precautions. For more information please visit NSW Health https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/drinking-water.aspx
Is there a known risk of sewage contamination?
There is no link to the sewage issues being dealt with by ICON Water in Canberra and in the Murrumbidgee River due to the flooding.
How is council testing the quality of the water?
Our staff regularly monitor and sample water from the Yass Dam and throughout the water supply system. During a boil water alert this sampling and monitoring is increased. Analysis of samples is undertaken at an independent certified water testing laboratory. Turbidity and chlorine residual monitoring results will be the key to lifting the boil water notice.
Will council flush the water mains?
Council is monitoring levels of turbidity and the effectiveness of disinfection in the town reticulation systems and will be flushing water mains on an as needs basis as part of the process.
What is the challenge the flood waters are causing at the water treatment plant?
Following the heavy rain, the key challenge at the existing Water Treatment Plant is a high sediment load and the associated higher risk of pathogens in treated water. The existing Water Treatment Plant is not designed to effectively address these challenges.
Will this challenge be completely eliminated when a new plant is built?
A new plant will significantly reduce the potential for any future problems.
What is the latest update for the new water treatment plant?
Council plans for the upgrade of the Yass Water Treatment Plant remain unchanged. At present, Council is working with specialist consultants from Hunter H2O Pty Ltd who have been engaged to prepare a detailed design and Business Case for construction of an upgraded Water Treatment Plant. This work is expected to be completed by early 2021. Current study will support future construction works, subject to availability of subsidy funding.
Who has Council notified about the boil water notice?
We have directly contacted and notified relevant parties, including schools, child care facilities, aged care facilities, Yass Hospital, Valmar and the Yass Valley Information Centre. Signage has been placed on roadways into towns and villages. Media releases have been issued to local radio, newspapers, on social media and Council's website.
How will I know when the water is safe to drink?
The boil water alert will remain in place until water quality improves and turbidity falls to an acceptably low level. The community will be notified again via radio, newspaper, VMS signs, social media and our website when this occurs. We encourage residents to go to NSW Health website for more information on boil water notices.
For more information on Boil Water Alerts, please visit: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/drinking-water-quality-and-incidents.aspx
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