Greg Roberts April 08, 2009

Article from:  The Australian

QUEENSLAND Health failed to pass on the results of a departmental audit to local councils responsible for monitoring the discharge of hospital wastes before they were to be recycled as drinking water.

The Brisbane and Ipswich city councils were not told of the audit’s findings when they become known to Queensland Health last November, three months before recycled effluent was to be added to southeast Queensland dams.

The plan was deferred in the face of community concerns about the safety of recycled water, but treated effluent will be added to dams when their levels fall to 40 per cent.

The Queensland Health audit found the necessary approvals were not in place or were faulty at four hospitals. The approvals were to ensure recycled water was not contaminated by the dumping in the sewer of hospital wastes such as blood and cancer drugs.

The Queensland Water Commission had repeatedly assured the public that all approvals were in order.

Ipswich Hospital, which held no approvals, applied for one in November but it has yet to be granted.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisale said an investigation by his council of possible waste-water sources at the hospital was under way.

“Queensland Health has not raised any concerns about trade waste approvals at the hospital,” Mr Pisale said.

The audit identified deficiencies in the waste approvals held by three Brisbane hospitals.

A Brisbane City Council spokesman said Queensland Health had not raised concerns about the approvals.

Opposition infrastructure spokesman David Gibson called on the Government to release the audit report.

“Anna Bligh is always talking about the need for honest and accountable government but, put under pressure, she runs and hides,” Mr Gibson said.

He said the Queensland Water Commission should be forced to explain why it misled the public about hospital waste approvals.

Queenslanders for Safe Water president Merilyn Haines said that given the public interest in recycled water, the report should be a public document.

Queensland Health population health director Linda Selvey said the report was “internal”.

The Queensland Water Commission declined to comment on whether it established with the Brisbane and Ipswich councils that they had the necessary hospital waste approvals in place.

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