Your wastewater is one of the key sources used to identify the presence of the COVID-19 virus in your local community because plumbing is public health
COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for every level of government in Australia. The pandemic has reiterated that plumbing is all about public health. With vaccination rates being hailed as our pathway back to the new normality, we need politicians and bureaucrats to embrace that plumbing protects the entire community and individually plumbers preserve the nation’s health.
A pivotal component in managing COVID-19 is establishing where transmission of the virus occurs. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, the identification of exposure sites by health authorities and the requirement for people who were at the same areas during the same time to monitor for symptoms or get tested themselves have been a ceaseless part of the public health response.
Wastewater testing has been crucial for health departments to identify where COVID-19 may be present in the community to help to stop the spread.
Wastewater or the used water from toilets, sinks, showers, baths, basins and dishwashers are analysed and tested for fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fragments of the virus potentially enter the wastewater system through people who have or have recently had COVID-19. People shed the virus fragments through toilet paper, used tissues, off their hands and skin or in faeces. This shedding can continue for weeks after a person is infectious.
“The COVID-19 virus, SARS-Cov-2, can enter wastewater infrastructure through any of those means. However, it is likely to enter wastewater principally from faecal and respiratory shedding. Shed virus is then detected by analysing the wastewater using analytical methods that are specific for SARS-CoV-2,” says Dr Nick Crosbie, Recycled Water and IWM Research Manager at Melbourne Water.
“Wastewater monitoring is equivalent to obtaining and analysing a large community-based composite sample of faeces, saliva, vomit, sputum, urine, shed skin and other material shed during personal cleansing, washing, bathing, and excreting.”
Throughout Australia, wastewater samples are taken from wastewater treatment plants, regional wastewater treatment plants and multiple locations throughout any metropolitan sewerage system.
Dr Crosbie describes surveillance as dynamic, adjusting it to meet changing needs such as surge testing during outbreaks.
“Samples are obtained by ‘grab sampling’, auto-sampling, and by the deployment of so-called ‘passive samplers’ which accumulate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the period of their deployment. Between a few 100 to more than 1,000 samples are collected and processed in a seven-day period. The samples are analysed of the passive samplers with presumptive detections confirmed by third-party analysis.”
Wastewater testing has come to public prominence during the pandemic, although it has been regularly undertaken worldwide to monitor poliovirus, norovirus and adenovirus for close to twenty years.
Dr Crosbie says the public identification of locations in which viral fragments are identified in wastewater – announced by the Department of Health regularly, including sending text messages to people in affected postcodes – allows health authorities to target their responses.
“Information can be used by health departments to focus their investigations further and to encourage an increase in local clinical testing rates,” he says.
The role of plumbers in effective wastewater testing is critical. The provision of safe and effective plumbing and sanitation illustrates how plumbers contribute to strengthening public health. Master Plumbers CEO Peter Daly is unequivocal in stating that “Plumbers play a vital role in developing, maintaining and promoting public health among the community. Plumbers prevent against disease and illness stemming from poor plumbing and sanitation and against the dangers of unsafe gas appliances, some of which can be deadly. Our day to day work in plumbing and sanitation also supports the overall wastewater testing process to play a big role in the COVID-19 response.”
Dr Crosbie agrees, “the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program is a huge team effort between people working in the plumbing industry, water industry, and the laboratory and health sectors,” he says.
Dr Crosbie understands that plumbing is public health, “More generally, the safe operation of our water and wastewater infrastructure ensures that the community do not suffer from significant health effects from water and wastewater-borne diseases.”
The World Health Organisation and leading doctors state that the world’s most significant medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation. Despite the tremendous medical breakthroughs and scientific advances, the seemingly mundane advance of reliable sewage and reliable, clean water supply is the most significant medical advance over the last 200 years.
In South East Queensland there are no water restrictions applicable to residential or business. Contrary to some ill-informed social media content there have been no water restrictions since 1 January 2013.
As a result of the current prolonged dry conditions, the inflows into the dams are the lowest in ten years. Currently water grid capacity is under 60%. If there are no major inflows from the rain in the next six months it is likely water restrictions will be introduced in mid-2020.
As a result of water grid capacity continuing to drop Seqwater is encouraging everyone to become more aware of their water usage. Ensuring everyone makes an effort now to reduce their water use can make a big difference in the introduction of water restrictions.
Seqwater continually updates water consumption across the six local water service providers. These updates are interesting comparisons of average daily residential consumption. In the last year, residential consumption on the Gold Coast has increased from 177 litres per person per day to 234 litres.
Some of this increased consumption is attributed to increased watering of gardens and lawns. Having a water wise garden is always a positive way to manage your garden and ensure it flourishes year-round.
Maintaining Your Garden
Having a water wise garden reduces your water usage and allows your garden to stay healthy. Healthy plants are important through all climate conditions. During the current drought, you need to be aware that your plants do reduce stress levels and purify the air.
Your water wise garden is crucial to the environment as all plants contribute to stabilising the ecosystem. Healthy plants all contribute to not only releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide they also are a critical part of the water cycle. Your plants also provide birds, insects and small animals with habitats to assist their survival and give them shade.
Maintaining your water wise garden is not a burdensome chore. In fact, the suggestions below should be your normal management techniques to ensuring you have a flourishing water wise garden and lawn year round no matter what climatic conditions we are experiencing.
Water early in the day
Evaporation will occur all year round in South East Queensland so to give your plants a drink early to reduce the evaporation of the water you are giving them.
In summer when the sun rises early we recommend you irrigate your garden and lawn before 6 am. In winter this can be wound back to 8 am.
If you cannot water early then the second choice is to water late. The heat of the day has diminished by 4 pm and can be a relaxing way to end the day by watering your gardens and lawn with a hose.
Be efficient in your watering technique
Whether your watering with a hose or a watering can you need to be efficient and effective. This means you need to water plants deeply and directly on to the root zone area which is at the stem of the plant.
This targeting deep watering technique increases the plant’s water uptake and trains the plant to expect less frequent watering.
Don’t water the foliage
Watering the foliage may make you feel good in seeing water dripping off the leaves but it achieves very little and is a waste of water. The only water needed for a healthy plant is in the root zone.
Watering foliage increases evaporation and assists pests feeding on the foliage. The incidence of plant diseases also increases with constant watering of foliage.
Maintain water levels in your soil
Water crystals or water beads or hydrogel are all water crystals and are a perfect additive to your garden once you have moist soil around your plants.
The water crystals will maintain moisture levels in the root zone around your plants which is where the water is needed. The crystals are small granules made from a water-absorbent polymer. Using them as a soil additive assists your plants to withstand drought conditions as they can expand to six hundred times their size after they come into contact with water. Once expanded they create a water-holding gel that slowly releases water to the plant’s roots.
Choose drought-tolerant plants for your garden
Your water wise garden will thrive when you use plants that are native to your locality. Plants such as most succulent varieties are a good starting point as is philodendron. To get the best advice on the best drought-tolerant plants for your garden we recommend you visit your local specialist nursery who are usually horticultural experts.
Adding a seaweed solution
The perfect health tonic for your plants is the addition of a seaweed solution to your periodic watering schedule. There are many seaweed solutions available which assist your plants to retain water which increases their hydration levels.
Lay mulch in your garden
It’s widely accepted mulching is essential for every garden. Mulching, especially in summer, is vital to reducing evaporation and ensuring your soil remains moist and cool.
Mulch combined with water crystals in the soil increases the soil’s water holding capacity. This combination ensures your water wise garden gets the most out of every drop of water.
Mulch correctly laid and maintained is also the visual finishing touch to your garden.
Install an irrigation system
If you are time-poor installing a drip irrigation system is a perfect solution to maintaining a water wise garden. Drip irrigation is literally what it says in that it allows water to drip slowly into the root zone of plants.
A drip irrigation system can be installed by you if you feel competent in doing so. There are many systems available many of which promote the DIY installation. But remember you always get the quality you pay for so choose carefully.
Drip irrigation systems must be legally connected to your water supply which is where many DIY installations fail with consequences that can be damaging to your family’s health.
If you need expert advice on installing a legally compliant water connection with a timer tap for your garden’s irrigation system then contact us anytime on (07) 5580 4311
Once the footy finals are over, we know it’s spring, as the weather warms and evening barbecues become the norm. But for many people, spring is a time to be dreaded. That’s because the advent of spring means its hay fever season for one in five Australians.
Hay fever season comes in stages over the spring and summer. The first stage will be in October/November when windborne pollens of plants and grasses cause allergens. When the pollens become trapped in your nose or eyes, they release their allergens. Fortunately, the pollen allergens are benign, but for one in five of us, our body misreads them as being harmful and fights back. This results in our body producing mucus to expel the pollen allergens.
As the body fights the pollen allergens watery, itchy bloodshot eyes along with a runny nose and sneezing are the most common symptoms of what we refer to as hay fever.
Filtered Water & Hay Fever
As proactive prevention should always be the #1 action, you should start with installing a Taqua built-in filtration tap. The filter built into the Taqua tap will remove chlorine and impurities from your tap water. Best of all for hay fever sufferers a Taqua tap is guaranteed to retain the minerals your body needs in your tap water.
Your #2 action in hay fever season should be to drink 800 ml of hot water every day from your Taqua tap. Drinking hot water at 50 ºC assists in easing common hay fever symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose.
This simple action of drinking hot filtered water will make your life more comfortable if you suffer from hay fever plus will assist your general health due to its detoxing effects on the body.
Your #3 action in the hay fever season is to rinse your eyes regularly with cold water to flush out the pollens. Using the filtered cold water from your Taqua tap will ensure that you are not washing chemicals such as chlorine directly into your body.
Filtered Water & Vegetables
We all know that eating fresh fruit and vegetables assists in our overall health, particularly in the hay fever season.
Did you know washing your fresh fruit and vegetables with ordinary tap water loses many of their valuable minerals?
The reason for this mineral loss is due to the free chlorine in ordinary tap water that reacts with the minerals in fruit and vegetables, causing the minerals to break down. In fact, 10% – 30% of all minerals are lost due to washing fruit and vegetables in tap water.
Using a Taqua built-in filtration tap with its veggie spray function is the perfect solution to wash fruit and vegetables to ensure they retain all their vitamins.
Cooking with filtered water from a Taqua built-in filtration tap is a simple way to improve the taste, smell and colour of your food.
Zeroflush waterless urinals installed at Brisbane International Airport
ZeroFlush Waterless urinals supplied and installed by Whywait Plumbing are precisely what they sound like. Instead of using water to flush away the urine, like traditional urinals which waste anywhere up to 25 litres of water every time they flush. ZeroFlush waterless urinals utilise gravity, putting urine through an odour barrier or one-way valve system which eliminates 100% of the water from a conventional flushing process.
Replacing a water flushing urinal with a ZeroFlush waterless model can save an average of 152000 litres annually per urinal. There’s one urinal for every three toilets in non-residential properties, which together account for more than a quarter of Australia’s water consumption.
The supply of water to commercial office buildings, shopping centres, educational facilities and hotels utilises a substantial amount of energy. The simple act of installing ZeroFlush waterless urinals and the disconnection of urinals from a buildings water reticulation system can reduce by 50% a building’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Throughout Australia, water charges continue to increase annually. The advent of sewerage discharge factor charges based on the amount of water consumed is increasing in popularity. These charges alone require reductions in water consumption to avoid substantial annual increases. For commercial property managers, this means they must budget for paying for water coming into the building and also going out via the sewage system. This means the installation of ZeroFlush urinals will not only aid with sustainability but reduce water and energy costs.
The urban myth that waterless urinals are unhygienic and stink is a myth perpetuated by opponents of waterless urinals that has no foundation in fact. A recent study by th
e Shanghai Environment Project Design Institute once again proved that waterless urinals contain five times fewer bacteria than water flushing urinals. Bacteria and germs from water flushing urinals are created by airborne fecal matter that is reproduced when the urinal flushes water. The combination of water moisture with the fecal matter creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and flourish. As waterless urinals don’t flush water every time they have been used the opportunity for bacterial and germ contamination becomes very remote.
The real reason most male bathroom facilities have putrid odours is triggered by the bacteria created from airborne fecal matter and water moisture. Urine by itself has a very soft odour but combined with the water flushing urinals spraying of water particles it can quickly create odours over the entire bathroom facility.
ZeroFlush waterless urinals are a guaranteed path to reducing water and energy consumption plus greenhouse gas emissions in any non-residential commercial building. Installing them will always help water and energy sustainability.
The Easter long weekend is only surpassed by the Christmas and new year period as a time when families travel to be together. It is also the start of the hot water season when clients are reminded of the ever-increasing hot water electricity cost.
For the plumbers at Whywait Plumbing, Easter is a busy period with blocked drainsbeing the most common problem followed by hot water problems.
Unlike Christmas, there is always a spike over Easter in emergency calloutsfor faulty hot water units. That is because Easter is generally much cooler than Christmas. Around April, we all suddenly realise that cold weather is on the way. Every year we notice the signs with an increase in emergency service callouts with the problem being no hot water. Even in the relatively mild climate of South-East Queensland no-one willingly wants to have a cold shower.
Frequently we cannot help but shake our head’s at all the stress, the waste of time and money these emergency service calls represent to many homeowners. Sadly many of us do not pay too much attention to the myriad of household and mechanical systems that provide so much comfort and convenience in our modern lives. We take for granted our water heaters, toilets, mixer taps, and air conditioners that is until they stop working. Then come the panicked call and a repair job that always ends up costing more than we expect.
Showers are the activity where we use the most hot water. Generally, 40% of the water consumed in the shower is hot water. This is why there is a strong correlation between the length of a shower and the hot water electricity cost.
If your home is like many in South East Queensland you are producing hot water from an electric hot water service connected to tariff 11 with a shower rose you love because you get a deluge of water from it at 23 litres per minute. If your shower is being utilised four times a day for an average of 5 minutes per shower, then those showers are costing you $1125 a year in electricity costs and $107 in water usage costs.
Essentially 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity is used to produce 15 litres of hot water using an electric element hot water service. With electricity prices expected to increase 21% on 1 July and a further 40% over the next three years, there is considerable scope for reducing your hot water electricity cost.
One option is to change your electricity and water guzzling shower rose to a water efficient shower rose using only 9 litres per minute. Based on the standard example above this would immediately reduce your electricity costs to $440 and water cost to $42. If you are able to change your hot water service from tariff 11 to tariff 33, then you will save an additional 40% on electricity costs.
The best option and the one we recommend is the long-term sustainable option utilising heat pump technology. Heat pump technology involves replacing your old fashioned energy-hungry electric hot water service to the highly efficient Sanden “Eco®” Plus Heat Pump hot water system.
Electricity costs have become a political hot potato, with state and federal governments playing the blame game in blaming each other for the doubling of electricity prices in recent years.
Hot water electricity cost is one area you can reduce your electricity costs substantially by being smart about how you heat your hot water and use it. Hot water generated by electric elements is something we always took for granted. That is until surging electricity price increases made us all take another look at our increasingly energy-intensive lifestyles.
Food allergies are on the rise, estimated to be affecting at least 250,000 Australian’s. According to a new study published in the United States in the December issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), pesticides and tap water could be partially to blame.
This authorative study reported that high levels of dichlorophenols, a chemical used in pesticides and to chlorinate water, when found in the human body, are associated with food allergies. “Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy,” said allergist Elina Jerschow, M.D., M.Sc., ACAAI fellow and lead study author. “This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water.”
In the United States where 10,348 participants in a US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2,548 had dichlorophenols measured in their urine and 2,211 were included into the study. Food allergy was found in 411 of these participants, while 1,016 had an environmental allergy. “Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the United States,” said Dr. Jerschow. “The results of our study suggest these two trends might be linked, and that increased use of pesticides and other chemicals is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies.”
It is generally accepted that similar results would be seen within the Australian population where water is treated in a similar manner and similar pesticides are utilised by farmers. To reduce the likelihood of developing an allergy the options are:
drink bottled or filtered water
purchase natural or organically grown fruit and vegetables
Whilst opting for bottled water instead of tap water might seem to be a way to reduce the risk for developing an allergy this is not the whole answer. More often than not bottled water is not a solution it is a problem because it is estimated about 40 percent of bottled water is in fact regular tap water.
Australians spend over $500 million every year buying bottled water. Potable drinking water from Gold Coast City Council costs $3.27 a kilolitre. Bottled water here is 1070 times more expensive than the water Gold Coast City Council pipes directly to your home. Australian bottled water costs around $3500 a kilolitre and Italian bottled water around $9600 a kilolitre.
The only solution with respect to water is installing a whole of house water filtration system because Gold Coast City Council potable drinking water distribution pipe line systems contain bacteria killing chlorine. The intent is simply to provide you with bacteria-free water. Unfortunately, they’re doing more than that because every time you consume tap water from the Gold Coast City Council distribution system you are ingesting a measure of chlorine. Every time you shower or bathe in tap water you are ingesting the free chlorine gas in the water supply. The telltale signs of unacceptably high levels of chlorine? Dry flaky skin, and the odour you often detect in your shower, bath, or drinking water.
Chlorine does not kill all the bacteria in the water supply pipelines as scale still builds up inside the pipes requiring the council to regularly clean them. Far worse, chlorine is a chemical and a poison. Once ingested, it randomly targets what it kills off in your body. Simply put, chlorine kills all bacteria…good and bad. It can kill off the natural flora in your stomach. It can negatively affect your digestion. It can build up in fat deposits. It can settle in your arteries and lead to heart disease. What’s more, chlorine can cause bladder cancer as the human body is not designed to filter out chlorine. And yet for the foreseeable future, it will remain in the Gold Coast City Council potable water distribution pipe line systems.
To take control of an important area of managing your own health by purifying your water supply Whywait Plumbing strongly recommend the installation of whole of house water filtration systems to remove one major threat of developing an allergy.