Dissolved lead in your drinking water is a reality in Australia. Lead is used across a wide range of plumbing products that are installed in homes and buildings. The most common products lead is used in is brass fittings and taps.
Some brass plumbing fittings allow the lead to dissolve into the drinking water where the water has been unused for long periods. This process is more pronounced in your hot water system where the heating of the water to 70 degrees results in an increase in all dissolved metals in the water, particularly lead. This is why you should always use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
If your water supply is sourced from a rainwater tank, you should also be aware that the increased acidity of rainwater may also increase the level of dissolved metals and lead from brass plumbing fittings.
As we have virtually no lead pipes circulating water in Australia in homes and buildings, it is rare for Australians to have elevated blood lead levels that are related to dissolved lead exposure from drinking water. However, at home, you can reduce your exposure to lead in your drinking water by:
- Always using the water from the cold tap for drinking and cooking
- First thing every morning it’s good practice to flush the cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for 30 seconds to draw fresh water through the tap rather than using the water that has been sitting there all night
- If a home or building has been unoccupied for an extended period, then it’s good practice to flush all cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for at least 3 minutes to flush out dissolved metals. If you are in public parks and use a water bubbler or tap it is good practice to flush the water for 30 seconds, especially if it’s not heavily used.
There is no need to have your water tested for lead. What we do recommend is that you follow the suggestions above to flush dissolved metals such as lead, copper and nickel from your drinking water.
A burst flexi hose is a job we attend to almost every day. In all likelihood, you will have multiple flexi hoses in your home. They will exist commonly in both residential and commercial buildings under the kitchen sink, under the bathroom vanity basins, under the toilet cistern and under the laundry tub. Invariably when we attend to a burst flexi hose it has been damaged during installation causing kinking and has further experienced corrosion. Almost always the burst flexi hose was a time bomb waiting to happen. The braided stainless steel “simple to install” flexi hose has over the last 10 years replaced copper pipe connections to taps and toilet cisterns. Unfortunately, the braided stainless steel flexi hose has not lived up to expectations and delivered on the rust protection anticipated. In our experience, a burst flexi hose is caused by:
- incorrect installation with multiple kinks in the braided stainless steel
- stretching of the flexi hose to make the connection fit
- chemical attack from household cleaners
All of the above can create the perfect storm scenario in causing the braided stainless steel to corrode and rust. It then is just a matter of time until the stainless steel braiding fails which allows for the inner liner to burst. Here at Whywait Plumbing, we are now installing a polyamide hi class water hooker from Abey Australia which is the most technologically advanced flexi hose we have seen come onto the market. The Abey polyamide hi class water hooker cannot rust or corrode as it uses polyamide braiding that is similar to the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests. The connectors are manufactured from brass alloy so the entire flexihose will never rust even if its continually in contact with chemicals such as chlorine.
We are confident you will never experience a burst flexi hose once we install the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker as they literally cannot rust and cannot kink but best of all they come with a 15-year rust resistant warranty. Kinking is often the cause of a burst flexi hose but cannot occur with the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker. Kinking is simply poor installation as a result of over tightening the connector which twists the stainless steel braided hose. This over tightening creates pressure and tension in the braiding which frequently results in the inner liner bursting through the braiding and rupturing. The Abey polyamide hi class water hooker has a simple design to ensure that it is anti-kink. When we install the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker we are able to use two spanners to counteract any twisting that results in kinking.
Most of the flexi hoses currently used have an inner lining manufactured from EPDM which has the potential to absorb and release harmful chemicals such as chlorine into your drinking water. This ability to absorb chemicals also results in a potential burst flexi hose. With the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker the inner lining is manufactured from Softpex Core. The Softpex Core inner liner gives a superior mechanical performance to EPDM guaranteeing a longer life due to its higher tensile strength, higher abrasion resistance, higher working water pressure and non-corrosiveness. The extensive age/stress testing undertaken resulted in an amazing 0% failure rate.
We strongly recommend that you get us to check your flexi hoses every year for rust and/or corrosion and that they are replaced every five years. This will give you the peace of mind in knowing that the flexi hose in your home or business is not rusting and about to explode releasing water at 25 litres every minute that it flows. Rust is the #1 enemy of a braided stainless flexi hose.
When we replace your existing stainless steel flexi hoses with the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker we guarantee you will get:
- superior strength and corrosion resistance
- tested and WaterMark approved for use in Australia
- superior tensile strength
- superior working water pressure
- a superior mechanical performance with the Softpex core inner liner
- a 15-year rust resistant warranty from the manufacturer
As always we must caution you that installing or replacing a flexi hose is not a legally compliant DIY installation and under Queensland law must be done by a licensed plumber. You need to be aware that undertaking a DIY installation has the likelihood of making your insurance coverage null and void and the manufacturer’s warranty null and void if the flexi hose bursts and causes damage. Don’t wait for the ticking time bomb of your existing stainless steel braided flexi hoses to strike! Call us now to get us to upgrade you to the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker.
Gold Coast council water rates are about to increase again. For both homeowners and business owners, this could be a double whammy when you couple this with the increases in power bills in recent years.
The Increases are likely to continue in coming years even though the City of Gold Coast has not increased its portion of your water bill at all for three years. Bulk water charges for the City of Gold Coast are recommended to increase by the Queensland Competition Authority a further $12 a year for the next two years.
The City of Gold Coast has now finalised the 2018-19 budget. Your Gold Coast council water rates charges will not increase on the retail and distribution component of the water and sewerage charges from the last financial year.
However, the significant portion of your water cost which is Queensland Government’s bulk water price will increase in line with the recommendations by the Queensland Competition Authority. The bulk water price will increase by 2.5% from $2.74 per kilolitre to $2.91 per kilolitre.
Contrary to some urban myths City of Gold Coast no longer owns Hinze Dam and the desalination plant. Gold Coast Water buys the water that you use through your meter from Seqwater owned by the Queensland Government. The price paid for the bulk water is itemised in your water bill.
Essentially the bulk water charges levied by the Queensland Government makes up the bulk of your water bill.
These charges are still reflecting the poor planning from 20 years ago that resulted in the multi-billion dollar water grid construction in 2007-08 which resulted in supply pipes connecting all of South-East Queensland being built. To a large extent, the pipe grid was constructed without dams being built and to lesser extent dams constructed without pipes which also resulted in the construction of the seldom-used Tugun desalination plant.
For 2018-19 your Gold Coast council water rates will increase on 1 July for your water and sewerage which will comprise of the following charges:
- Queensland Government bulk water charge $2.91 per k/L
- City of Gold Coast distribution $1.09 per k/L
- Total water consumption charge $4.00 per k/L
The water and sewerage access charges will remain the same as in previous years being:
- water access charge of $212.08 per year
- sewerage access charge of $724.12 per year.
Currently, water charges are relatively stable, but significant problems are looming. Long term planning is required to address the issues of aging infrastructure and their maintenance costs which will impact Gold Coast council water rates.
Infrastructure Australia in a major report has predicted water bills will go the way of power bills increasing by at least $50 every year. They predict today’s average annual water bill of $1200 will increase to $2500 within 20 years.
The report correctly says we need to start planning now as our dams are relatively full which gives us the rare opportunity of “….clear thinking and long-term planning to meet our future needs.”
As we all know from the water management supply crisis of 2007-09 South East Queensland can be adversely effected quickly with a combination of natural disasters, poor planning and below average rainfall.
Very simply if we don’t start long-term planning now for planning our future water needs the drastic increases in water bills will cripple family and business budgets in the same way power bills are now.
In August 2014 after a large number of issues where every other job we attended was a leaking water main, I concluded that all of them were caused by incorrect installation. In our monthly newsletter and in a blog I highlighted that negligence causes plumbing emergencies.
Since 2014 nothing has changed with polypipe leaking water main repairs being a constant source of work. The number of defective installations in new homes reinforces that a City of Gold Coast plumbing inspection is not a guarantee.
It is positive to see that the Department of Housing and Public Works issued Building And Plumbing Newsflash 558 on 13 March highlighting issues on the correct selection and installation of polyethylene (PE) pipe which is commonly called polypipe or blue line poly, used as a material for water supply installations. The QBBC also raised the matter in a blog Health and safety concerns relating to PE pipes, or ‘blue line poly’.
The issues we see every day on almost every leaking water main has been highlighted in the Newsflash with the Department stating “…..has become aware of issues associated with PE pipe including pipe leakage resulting from material splitting and holes developing in the material. Although the direct cause of these failings has not been determined, it is timely that the department issue advice on the correct selection and installation of the product.”
When installing a polypipe water main a licenced plumber must ensure that it is done so in accordance with the Plumbing Code of Australia and the referenced standard which is AS/NZS 3500.1-2015. These are not options but are law as per the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002.
The following clauses in AS/NZS 3500.1-2015 must be complied with in regard to installing any underground water main:
- Clause 2.3 Selection and Use of Materials and Products – this clause states that materials and products used in a water service shall be selected to ensure fitness for their intended purpose and goes on to list all those factors so that there is no doubt.
- Clause 5.2 Proximity to Other Services – this clause is very specific on hoe water service pipes are to be separated from any other underground services including gas or electrical and drainage pipes. The separation distances range between 100mm and 600mm depending on the size of the water service and the type of the neighbouring service. The specific requirements are laid out in clauses 5.2.1 through to 5.2.10.
- Clause 5.9 Depth of Cover – this clause once again is very specific in stating the depth at which underground pipes shall be with table 5.9 giving specific loading conditions and the minimum cover or depth which ensure the pipe is protected. In most cases the minimum depth is 300mm unless there are vehicle loading factors which then can require the pipe to be at 750mm depending on what the ground surface is.
- Clause 5.10 Bedding and Backfill – this clause is the one we see most commonly ignored on the Gold Coast and is what causes the entire leaking water main to require replacing. The clause is very specific in stating that the pipe must be surrounded entirely with a minimum of 75mm of compacted sand or fine grain soil with no hard edged object in contact with the pipe. Again very specifically it states the final backfill shall be free from rock, hard matter, organic matter and be broken up to ensure that there are no soil lumps larger than 75mm.
- Clause 5.11 Installation in Contaminated Areas – this clause states exactly what is a contaminated area and that a pipe laid in a contaminated area shall be installed in a water tight, corrosion resistant conduit.
The clauses above are quite specific on how your water main should be installed. They are specific requirements under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002. They are not options the plumber can choose to opt in and out of.
If you suffer a leaking water main and it is not installed as per the above clauses the licensed plumber installing it has done so knowing it is non-compliant and that it is reasonably foreseeable that failure and damage will occur over time. Very simply this is negligence.
A recent phone call I received regarding suspected illegal plumbing from an insurance company assessor was a timely reminder of why property owners and property managers must ensure the following where any plumbing work is concerned:
- that all plumbing work on your property is undertaken by a licensed plumbing contractor
- that all legislated council inspections are undertaken and all fees paid
- get a copy of the Queensland Governments, Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) Form 4 compliance certificate that the plumber must lodge and pay the $29.70 fee
- and that all products such as taps and toilets are WaterMark and WELS approved products
In this particular incident, the assessor was verifying with us what the property owner had claimed after a child had undertaken some experimental work with a pull out kitchen spray hose. We were able to supply the documentation he was seeking and all was well.
But this is not always the case. We had a situation we had to rectify last year where the owner of a hairdressing salon broken every rule in the book and paid dearly for it when her salon was flooded.
Like us all, she was extremely busy. Needing to replace her taps on the hair washing basins she did a Google search and found the perfect taps online at half the price she was expecting to pay.
A week later the taps arrived with instructions on how to install them so she decided her husband could do the installation as he was a bit of a handyman. The following Sunday when the salon was shut her husband removed the faulty taps and after a few minor mishaps had the taps up and working by that evening all ready for the next days trading.
The taps were a huge improvement on the old ones because they actually worked with the water mixing beautifully to the right temperature at the touch of the handle. Everyone was happy – clients, employees and owners.
The salon owner and staff talked with their clients whilst doing their hair how great the new taps. A major topic of conversation was what a bargain they had been to buy online plus they had saved a fortune on employing a plumber by doing all the installation themselves.
Three months after the taps were installed the salon owner got a call at home on a Saturday morning just as she was leaving for work to say there was water coming out of the front door to her salon.
When she arrived at the salon the water was indeed pouring out of the door and everywhere else. Water was flowing continuously from a burst connection hose on one of the new taps. Luckily she knew where to turn the water off on the street. Unfortunately, the taps did not have individual control valves under the hot and cold connections despite it being a required installation of the taps instructions.
A flooded salon meant that she had to get her staff to cancel client appointments despite it being the busiest day of the week. Instead of it being a cash flow positive trading day it became cash-flow negative with staff cleaning up the salon in conjunction with a multitude of tradesman beginning rectification.
On Monday with the rectification work already underway the insurance companies assessor arrived to inspect the damage. As expected he was a model of empathy with her plight taking a number of photos of the damage to the salon.
The Salon owner showed the assessor the faulty tap which he checked over and agreed it was indeed the cause of her flooded salon.
The assessor then asked her where she had brought the mixer taps and who was the plumber who installed them. Proudly she explained how she had saved a fortune purchasing the taps online and that her husband had installed them so they had saved the cost of the plumber as well.
She also told the assessor she had emailed the online store where she had purchased them as they had no phone number demanding that they supply a replacement tap.
On Friday she received a letter from her insurance company not only declining to cover the damage to the salon but also declining coverage on her business interruption insurance. Their reasons were she had through her own negligence directly caused the damage which also caused her business to have to temporarily cease trading. The negligence was:
- the installation of non-compliant taps with no Australian WaterMark or WELS certification in the salon’s basins
- the said taps were installed by a non-licensed person with no compliant contractor registration in contravention of the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 and Queensland Building Services Authority Act 1991.
So the bargain taps and the do it yourself plumbing installation turned into a financial nightmare for the salon owner. The repairs and rectification cost in excess of $30000. In addition, there was the loss of eight days trading plus the loss of clients who went and found a new salon.
You get what you pay for is an old cliche but with plumbing its definitely true. If the salon owner had complied with the law and done what she ultimately had to do, in employing a licensed plumber to install compliant mixer taps with individual control valves at the connection point she would have had not a single problem. Even if she had still had a burst connector flexihose to the tap her insurance coverage would have covered all of her costs as would have the public liability insurance policy of the plumber.
Ultimately its always to your advantage to:
- employ a licensed plumber and
- make sure the products he installs are WaterMark and WELS compliant and
- ensure you get a copy of the Queensland Governments, Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) Form 4 compliance certificate that the plumber must lodge and pay the $29.70 fee.
If you do all of the above you will never have a problem with an insurance claim being rejected because you have a paper trail for the assessor to follow. And I’m sure you will be surprised but our salon owner never received a new tap or any reply from the online store.
Tree roots in a stormwater drain causing localised flooding is an issue confronted by many homeowners, particularly during our summer storms.
So imagine the issues faced when the tallest commercial office building on the Gold Coast at 118m tall and with 27 floors above ground and 5 levels of basement parking gets roots in their drains.
Well, this scenario is exactly what has occurred at the Gold Coast’s premier office building, GDI Property Group’s “50 Cavill Avenue” in the heart of Surfers Paradise on the corner of Cavill Avenue and Beach Road.
As you can see in the photo on the right, 50 Cavill Avenue is indeed a prestigious office building with a great street appearance. Part of that appearance is a magnificent fig tree in a grassed area on the very corner of the property at the Beach Road entrance. The tree can be seen on the bottom right of the photo.
Unfortunately, over the years since being transplanted onto the site, the tree roots of this beautiful tree had slowly but surely gained access to 50 Cavill Avenues main stormwater drainage system.
Stormwater drains are a critical part of any building and are designed to comply with AS 3500.3:2015 to ensure that the materials used, the design, installation and testing of roof drainage systems, surface drainage systems and subsoil drainage systems will always work.
Unfortunately, as we frequently witness the stormwater drains are installed not in accordance with the designs causing flooding.
This is in the main due to the fact that stormwater drains are inspected and certified by private building certifiers, rather than council plumbing inspectors which in our experience frequently means they are never inspected to ensure they are compliant.
Every summer after our storms and heavy rainfall events we see the consequences of poorly designed, poorly installed and poorly maintained stormwater drains.
As you can see from the photos above and below on the left the tree roots infiltration at 50 Cavill Avenue is extensive inside these 100mm stormwater drains. The tree roots in these photos are more than 30m away from the fig tree and are perfectly formed plus being incredibly strong requiring power saws to cut through them.
The process to rectify these drains at 50 Cavill Avenue is extremely complex as we have had to hydro excavate extensive areas of grass and soil to locate where the tree roots are entering the stormwater drainage system.
The photo on the right shows a 6m length of tree roots lying on the concrete floor that we removed that were completely encompassing the entire interior of a 100mm pipe.
We are all aware we have had plenty of rain this summer and that stormwater drains have been tested to the limit.
But you should never be complacent where your stormwater drains are concerned if you have trees on your property. Infiltration by tree roots similar to what has happened at 50 Cavill Avenue will slowly sneak up on you.
Overflowing, slow draining or gurgling drains are your warning signs. They should never ever be ignored as they seldom go away and should be investigated immediately.