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Improve drinking water quality through risk management programs for suppliers

Over the last year, NSW Health helped 74 local water utilities develop and/or support implementation of risk based drinking water management systems. NSW Health is continuing to fund this work in 2015, helping utilities meet the requirement of the Public Health Act 2010.

A management system consists of documents, procedures and other supporting information for the safe supply of drinking water. The process allows water utilities to document current practices that fulfil Australian Drinking Water Guidelines requirements, identify any gaps, conduct risk assessment workshops, identify critical control points (CCPs, such as filtration and disinfection), and develop operational procedures for CCPs.

This process has brought direct and immediate improvements, including optimising chlorination systems to ensure effective disinfection, optimisation of filtration and other treatment processes, improved record keeping, identification and correction of treatment plant design risks, and introduction of continuous real-time monitoring of plant performance.

NSW Health works with water utilities to expand drinking water fluoridation. In 2014, fluoridation commenced in six supplies for the first time (Denman (Muswellbrook Shire), Berrigan, Finley (Berrigan Shire), Gunning/Dalton (Upper Lachlan Shire), Stroud (MidCoast Water), and Marom Creek (Ballina Shire)). NSW Health also monitors compliance with the Code of Practice for Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies.

NSW Health has continued to exercise public health oversight by:

  • reviewing 12 new and ongoing applications for water recycling under the Water Industry Competition Act 2006 or Local Government Act 1993
  • regulation of major water utilities (Hunter Water Corporation, Sydney Water Corporation and Sydney Catchment Authority)
  • oversight of 96 regional water utilities through the NSW Health Drinking Water Monitoring Program which provides guidance on monitoring and is supported by NSW Health laboratories.

Improve the health of Aboriginal people through Housing for Health projects

The Housing for Health program continues to deliver across NSW to improve house function and essential health hardware (e.g. fixing a leaking toilet, electrical repairs, having sufficient hot water, having somewhere to wash a young child) can lead to improvements in the health of tenants, in particular children aged 0-5 years, and reduce the risk of disease and injury.

In 2014:

  • Four new Housing for Health projects started in Maclean, Malabugilmah/Baryugil, Wanaaring and Yamba. In those communities, the program surveyed 134 houses and fixed over 2,345 items, benefitting approximately 790 people.
  • 11 existing projects were underway in Balranald, Cobar, Murrin Bridge, Cudjallagong, Armidale, Batemans Bay, Bellbrook, Bodalla, Wallaga Lake, Cummeragunja and Toomelah/Boggabilla. In those communities, the program surveyed 371 houses and fixed over 7,031 items, benefitting approximately 1,367 people.
  • Four completed projects (final reports) in Muli Muli, Menindee, Cabbage Tree Island and Broken Hill. In those communities, the program surveyed 96 houses and fixed over 2,613 items, benefitting approximately 357 people.
  • In addition to the Housing for Health Projects, ‘value adding’ initiatives were implemented in some communities: assisted to address issues with Asbestos in dilapidated and abandoned housing in Toomelah and Jabullum communities, undertook site drainage reports at the Murrin Bridge and the Lung Friendly Home Program/Smoke Free Homes Project in Cudjallagong community.

NSW Health continues to involve in the development and roll-out of the Water and Sewerage Program to ensure adequate operation, maintenance and monitoring of water supplies and sewerage systems in 61 Aboriginal Communities. Regional Public Health Units worked with communities, the NSW Office of Water, local water utilities and service providers to implement Risk-Based Water and Sewerage Management Plans and participating in review meetings with communities.

In 2014:

  • 61 Aboriginal communities met the criteria and were eligible for funding under this program. Of those 61 communities:
  • 21 were found to have satisfactory services equivalent to neighbouring communities as they were part of a reticulated system prior to commencement of this program.
  • 20 now have long term service agreements in place for local water utilities to provide full water and sewerage services equivalent to that in similarly located communities.
  • 16 have interim arrangements in place for the local water utilities to support water and sewerage services that are equivalent to that expected in the wider community in similar positions.

Participate in planning processes to minimise the health impacts from development

In 2014 Health Protection NSW staff participated in interagency forums to consider issues around:

  • tunnel air quality, in relation to the design, assessment and evaluation of the tunnel ventilation systems to minimize the impacts on air quality within and around the tunnels
  • the impact of Nitrogen Dioxide in tunnels on human health in the medium to long term
  • advice on the potential health impacts of Northconnex tunnel, Westconnex tunnel, White Bay terminal and Gore Bay terminal
  • the promotion of safe handling of asbestos and helping prevent risk of exposure to asbestos related diseases in the NSW community through its membership on the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authority (HACA). This interagency group has developed a number of programs to address challenges posed by asbestos which include a state wide plan for asbestos, a model asbestos policy for local councils and a comprehensive public awareness campaign. Key activities for NSW Health this year include participation in NSW Government’s Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce which developed a comprehensive action plan for a voluntary purchase and demolition of houses affected by the installation of loose fill asbestos as roof insulation.

Reduce tobacco use by enforcement of smoke free environment and retail regulations

Regulation of tobacco retailing and smoke-free environments has contributed to the downward trend in tobacco use in NSW. In 2014 the adult current smoking rate in NSW was 15.6 per cent, down from 17.1 per cent in 2012 and 16.4 per cent in 2013.

In 2014 Authorised Inspectors from Public Health Units and the Ministry of Health worked together to monitor compliance with and enforce smoke-free outdoor public areas under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000. They observed 98 per cent compliance by members of the public with the law.

Authorised Inspectors from Public Health Units continued to monitor and enforce sales to minors and point of sale provisions under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2000. In 2014 they conducted 775 inspections of tobacco retailers for sales to minors provisions, with 94 per cent compliance observed, and almost 2000 inspections for points of sale provisions, with 84 per cent compliance observed.

Improve workforce capacity, through better training including on-line modules

The NSW Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training Program aims to address labour shortage in the environmental health workforce and to develop an Aboriginal workforce with the leadership and technical skills to progress environmental health issues into the future. The Aboriginal Environmental Health Unit manages and administers the Training Program.

In 2014 four new trainees were employed, bringing the total to 14 Aboriginal Trainee Environmental Health Officers in the Training Program under 12 Training Program partnerships including five directly with Local Government; four with Public Health Units, and three 3-way partnerships with Public Health Units and Local Government. One trainee resigned from the program.

Current as at: Thursday 3 September 2015
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW