Illegal plumbing products have always created considerable angst for licensed plumbers as plumbing products without a WaterMark certificate have not been illegal to supply. But for a licensed plumber if you install an illegal plumbing product you can be fined on the spot up to $2523.00 for each illegal plumbing product you install.
Amazingly a catalyst for change in Queensland occurred in London in June 2017. The deaths of over 80 people in a fiery inferno in the 24 storey Grenfell Tower sent shock waves around the world.
The actual fire started in a fridge in an apartment. It then rapidly spread up the entire external cladding over the length of the building as can be seen in the photo on the right.
The cladding and insulation that had recently been installed in a building refurbishment, failed all preliminary tests by the police.
Experts claim the fire resistant zinc cladding that was originally specified was replaced by the builders with an alternate aluminium type cladding that was less fire resistant. This alternate cladding saved the builders $510,000.00 which of course was extra profit for them.
Here in Australia like in many other countries the increased risk to buildings and safety by builders and suppliers substituting products was deemed to be an unacceptable risk.
The Queensland Government has lead the way with new laws on non-compliant building and plumbing products. This was especially so after it was found that the recently renovated PA hospital had non-compliant external cladding where a fire would spread rapidly similar to Grenfell Tower.
The distribution and installation of non-conforming, non-compliant and unsafe building products can represent a risk to the health and safety to everyone.
The Queensland Parliament recently passed the Building and Construction Legislation (Non-conforming Building Products-Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2017, regarding the use and sale of non-conforming building products.
These new laws further strengthened how compliance must be achieved with the recent amendments to the Queensland Building and Construction Act 1991, the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002, and the Building Act 1975 in relation to non-conforming building and plumbing products.
These laws create a chain of responsibility so that designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of building products now have as much responsibility as installers to ensure a product is compliant and fit for intended purpose.
These laws also give the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) new powers to investigate the manufacture, sale and use of non-conforming building products. These laws are the first of their kind in Australia.
Positively now illegal building and illegal plumbing products are regarded as non-conforming or non-compliant for an intended use if;
- the product is not, or will not be, safe; or
- does not, or will not, comply with the relevant regulatory provisions; or
- the product does not perform or is not capable of performing, for the use to the standard it is represented to conform by such as Watermark certification.
These new laws now create a chain of responsibility for reporting non-conforming building or plumbing products to QBCC. This duty applies if any person in the chain of responsibility becomes aware, or reasonably suspects, that the building or plumbing product installed is non-conforming for an intended use.
As Licensed Plumbers, it has always been illegal for us to install non-conforming illegal plumbing products. However, it is now illegal to for anyone to supply non Watermarked products.
At Whywait Plumbing we will be complying with the new laws and in future will notify the QBCC immediately if we discover non-conforming, non-compliant illegal plumbing products.
Ultimately these new laws are for the protection, safety and security of everyone.
Despite recent floods Australia is still the worlds driest continent. Only 5 years ago Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane were on the verge of running out of potable water. Not only in Australia but across the world the water supply is being strained by climate change and the growing food, energy and sanitary needs of a fast-growing population. The United Nations has completed a study that calls for a radical rethink of national policies to manage potable fresh drinking water.
The United Nations report released by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova points out the following on the management of the worlds drinking water:
- Freshwater is not being used sustainably
- Accurate information remains disparate, and management is fragmented
- The future is increasingly uncertain and risks are set to deepen
The report identifies the demand from agriculture, which already sucks up around 70 percent of freshwater used globally as the problem area. Agricultural use of water is likely to rise by at least 19 percent by 2050 as the world’s population swells an estimated 2 billion people to 9 billion. To meet the population demands farmers will need to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 as rising living standards mean individuals demand more food, and meat in particular.
In Australia a silent revolution has taken place underground, as the amount of water sucked from below the surface from the vast underground aquifers has tripled in the past 50 years, removing a buffer against drought. This is occurring in many other countries and is causing alarm not only for farmers but for cities that rely on these water flows.
Worldwide as demand increases for water supply in many regions is likely to shrink because of changed rainfall patterns, greater droughts, melting glaciers and altered river flows. Water stress is already being felt in Australia, South-East Asia and Africa with climate change predicted to drastically effect food production through to 2030. Asia in particular is suffering water stress with 60 percent of the world’s population but only around a third of water resources. Unless management policies are drastically altered by 2070 water stress will also be felt in central and southern Europe.
A separate water study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released last week forecast world water demand would rise by 55 percent by 2050, with more than 40 percent of the global population likely to live in water basins facing water stress. With limited supply governments will have to better manage the competing demands of farmers, energy producers and humans demanding drinking water and sanitation. Policy interaction is required to change now between the diverse communities of users, decision makers and isolated water managers because to date a lack of co-ordinated policy has caused serious degradation of the water resources in all countries.
The World Health Organisation, (WHO) has confirmed the United Nations aim to raise the proportion of people with access to safe potable drinking water by 2015 had actually been reached at the end of 2010. This is despite the fact that French charity Solidarites International states 1.9 billion people remained without safe drinking water, not the 783 million estimated by the United Nations.
Water remains the basis of all life and its management is a world problem that needs tackling now.
Personally one of life’s great pleasures is walking into Zarraffa’s Coffee at Hope Island most mornings and getting that immediate lift that the aroma of coffee gives. As a plumber one of the more problematic issues we face is when a building has a problem with sewer gases, so I was not surprised when I came across research that showed that the leftover coffee grounds could eliminate that offensive odour that is sewer gases.
Sewer odour is in fact hydrogen sulphide and has a characteristic rotten egg smell which can be detected at very low levels, well below those that are known to cause health effects.
The sewer odour smell can cause worry, anxiety and resentment as it overwhelms the sense of smell. Repeated odour events may culminate in real symptoms such as headache, fatigue and nausea. Although these are not direct health effects they are undesirable. It is unlikely the odour will effect your health as humans smell it at very low levels as hydrogen sulphide is denser than air and tends to pool on the ground or the floor especially inside a building. Any absorbed hydrogen sulphide does not accumulate in the body as it is rapidly metabolised in the liver and excreted in the urine.
The problems with sewer odour inside buildings is often related to the venting of the drainage system which requires the installation of filters. Over the years at Whywait Plumbing we have tried many different filter systems and non return valves with varying degrees of success to control sewer odour.
New reasearch to develop a novel, eco-friendly filter to remove toxic gases from the air has found that a material made from used coffee grounds can sop up hydrogen sulphide gas. CCNY chemical engineering develops and tests materials that scrub toxic gases like hydrogen sulphide from air in industrial facilities and pollution control plants. Similar to the grains of charcoal packed into a water filter cartridges the CCNY filters use a form of charcoal called activated carbon.
The manufacturers of activated carbon producers already use materials like coal, wood, peat, fruit pits, and coconut shells to make filters. CCNY concluded that our modern coffee culture could supply an abundant source of eco-friendly organic waste. An added advantage is that coffee grounds also come equipped with a special ingredient that boosts their smell-fighting power. The stimulant that gives coffee its energy jolt which is caffeine also contains nitrogen. Nitrogen dramatically increases the carbon’s ability to clean hydrogen sulphide from the air through a process called adsorption.
Manufacturers traditionally have treated the carbon with nitrogen rich chemicals such as ammonia, melamine, or even urea the main nitrogen-containing substance in urine. All of these treatments significantly increase the cost of adsorbents. CCNY carbonised coffee grounds turning them into charcoal by a process of activation that fills the carbon with scores of minute holes about 10-30 angstroms in diameter and roughly equivalent to 10-30 hydrogen atom-widths across. These densely packed pores are blanketed with nitrogen, perfect to capture hydrogen sulphide molecules passing through.
Trials are continuing on the filters with positive results so just remember next time you have a coffee the grounds that made it can be developed into a environmentally sustainable green filter that can control the most nauseating odour of all – sewer odour.
Currently receiving publicity is the Myan calendar which predicts the end of the word in December 2012. The real translation though is “A time of great change.” Not so much the end but more the beginning of a new era. For Gold Coast ratepayers who will receive what is possibly their last Allconnex water bill in the next week it is a time of great change. Unless there is a change of government on 24 March the ratepayers of the City of Gold Coast have been duped by misguided media and activists from Disconnex into reviving Gold Coast Water.
Gold Coast Water that may come to life on 1 July is only a water retailer. It will not lead to reductions in the cost of water simply because the Queensland Government controls the price of water that is sold to retailers. As a result the wholesale cost of water is the bulk of a water bill because someone has to pay for the reckless spending by the Beattie-Bligh governments on projects that include the $7 billion water grid that may never be used and the troubled desalination plant at Tugun plus the $500 million for Traveston Dam, which wasn’t built despite costly planning and land resumptions.
Gold Coast City Council is not responsible for the originally highly respected water utility being taken over by the Queensland Government it was simply legislated that way. The spin by Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser into making Gold Coast ratepayers believe the soaring water bills are all the councils’ fault is bizarre at best because they control the price of the wholesale cost. The government spin campaign caused a misguided people-power revolt on the Gold Coast with Allconnex Water workers even having their cars attacked. Allconnex has to collect rates to a prescribed formula set by the State Government.
Gold Coast ratepayers should direct their anger at the Queensland Labor MP’s who voted to destroy Gold Coast Water not at the Gold Coast City Councillors who were forced to vote to disband Gold Coast Water in accordance with law changes enacted by the Queensland Government. The new Gold Coast Water will only be a shadow of its former self but will still have to generate income to fund more than $1 billion in new water and sewerage plants over the next decade. The Queensland Labor Government state has removed all subsidies, so Gold Coast Water revived will be looking for new revenue. It means ratepayers will pick up the tab in raised rates and water charges – or Gold Coast Water will go broke.
Current Gold Coast mayor, Ron Clark has consistently spoken against the Queensland Government takeover of water in South East Queensland. Even the Council of Mayors warned in 2007 that the proposed takeover of water was simply cost-shifting by the state. If the revived Gold Coast Water proceeds we may not have to wait too years before we really understand the negative impact of Labor’s reforms. In the meantime Gold Coast ratepayers will continue to pay and pay and pay. Even the Queensland Governments own water commissioner, Elizabeth Nosworthy, in 2007 released the pricing for water in southeast Queensland said that “by 2012-13, a typical household’s annual cost would increase from $355 to $876, an increase of 147 per cent”. This was all but ignored at the time but she was on the money.
So when Gold Coast voters receive their Allconnex water bills next week remember when you go to the polls on 24 March it was local Labor MP’s Peta-Kaye Croft, Peter Lawler, Christine Smith and Margaret Keech who destroyed Gold Coast Water and drove water prices up 147% in 4 years.
Water is not only the essence of life it is the basis of life as water is the foundation of the human body. Like any structure if the foundation is poor then strength and longevity are reduced.
In South East Queensland the next two months of January and February are traditionally the hottest months of the year. With the hot weather comes the concerns of dehydration. Very simply more than 70% of the human body is water, so when the temperatures increase the body cools itself by sweating. If water intake is not adequate then dehydration can become a real danger. This is frequently worse with children if their fluid intake of water is inadequate.
It is all of our personal responsibility to ensure our intake of water is frequent and adequate. It is important to realise that you can become dehydrated long before the symptom’s appear, so prevention is critical and prevention is simply drinking water. Prevention does not include drinking fruit juices or sugary soft drinks.
Dehydration will not only impair your normal daily performance but dramatically increases the risk of heat related illnesses such as cramps, headaches, exhaustion or even heat stroke. Possible signs of dehydration may include:
- extreme thirst
- extreme fatigue
- muscle and joint weakness
- headache and or dizziness
- dry or sticky mouth
- cramping of muscles
- decreased performance
If you notice yourself or anyone else with the above symptom’s it is important to find a cool place and cool the body with water. The water should be sipped not gulped and the rest should continue until the body returns to normal. By recognising the signs of dehydration and taking measures to prevent it will increase everyone’s overall health.
The carrying of water bottles should be standard before leaving home. There is no need to buy expensive bottles of water at the supermarket or service station when you literally have it on tap at home. Even if you do not like the taste of water from Allconnex it is a comparatively simple job for Whywait Plumbing Services to install a good quality filtration system to remove the chemicals such as chlorine that create the poor taste many people associate with tap water. Once you have good quality filtered drinking water the purchase of reusable personal drinking bottles will ensure the entire family can be active, healthy and always hydrated in our hottest months by simply drinking regularly.
Traditionally most homes used copper pipe to circulate hot and cold water. Since the 1970’s plastic pipes have increasingly replaced the traditional copper or galvanised steel pipes.
The last ten years have seen pipe-in-pipe systems commonly used to circulate water in most newly constructed homes. The inner pipe for drinking water is made of a plastic called cross-linked polyethylene (PEX).
Since the advent of plastic plumbing systems there has always been questions regarding the effects on health and do they affect the taste and odour of drinking water. International studies have shown that plastic pipes can release substances that give an unwanted taste and odour to drinking water. It has also been suggested that some of these substances may be carcinogenic.
There have been a number of investigations all over the world on the health issues and most are non conclusive or positive. A new study has just been released by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health on whether leaching or leakage products from these pipes are harmful to health and if they affect the taste and odour of drinking water. The potential leakage products consist of residues of additives used during manufacture to give plastic pipes their desired properties, as well as any susbsequent breakdown products.
The Norwegian study results indicated:
- There are no health risks associated with drinking water from PEX pipes
- A few types of PEX-pipe may cause prolonged undesirable taste and odour if the water remains in pipes over time
- Although the taste and odour usually dissipate with use, water from two of the PEX types still had an unpleasant smell and taste after a year
- The level of volatile organic compounds that leaked from new PEX pipes was generally low
- The level was further reduced with use
- No correlation was found between manufacturing methods and leaking products
This study was undertaken on a far more scientific basis than many tests or studies in Australia. It is not uncommon in Australia for international products that have undergone extensive testing to fail AS4020 based on an extremely subjective taste test from a panel of 5 – 7 people. In the Norwegian study 10 different types of PEX pipes were tested for leaching products in a standardised laboratory test. The water was in contact with the tubes for 72 hours.
Three different manufacturing methods produce pipes known as PEX-a, PEX-b or PEX-c. These methods use slightly different additives, but this study found no correlation between production method and leakage products. Two of the most commonly occurring substances detected in the water in the experiments were 2.4-di-tert-butyl-phenol and methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE). For three types of new pipe, MTBE was detected in higher concentrations than the US government’s recommended limits for taste and odour of drinking water (USEPA), but the values were reduced to below this limit after the tubes had been in use for a while.
This study confirms what the plumbing technicians at Whywait Plumbing frequently observe that no matter what the type of pipe there can be a taste or odour in new piping systems or where a house has been unoccuppied for a period of time. The taste and odour soon disappear once the water is in use in the house and is in constant circulation.