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Perth Children’s Hospital water recycling system remains troubled

Health department officials have questioned the safety of a greywater recycling system in the Perth Children’s Hospital, calling to have the plant switched off due to fears of cross-contamination.

The hospital, which has yet to be opened, includes a $230,000 water recycling system that treats used water with chlorine and ultraviolet light to remove pathogens, then uses it for flushing the hospital’s toilets.

But the Department of Health and Australian Medical Association have expressed concerns over exposing dangerous pathogens in a hospital setting.

"Greywater systems in hospitals are going to be dealing with not just routine bacteria that are associated with any system, but also more pathologic bacteria that are present in the body fluids and secretions of people who are sick," the Australian Medical Association WA president Omar Khorshid told the ABC.

"It may be viruses or bacteria, and although the system will obviously be designed to eradicate those – it might destroy 99.9% of them or 99.99% of them – but that means there are still pathogens in that water.

"In a hospital setting there will be children with extremely impaired immune systems, and there is also the potential that water may spray and surfaces, not directly in the toilet or basin, may be contaminated with bacteria you would really rather avoid in hospitals."

According to a hospital spokesperson, the system has been installed but has “never been switched on” and that it was awaiting information from the contractor about the functionality of the system before determining if it would be used.

This issue is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of issues that the hospital has been facing: asbestos was recently found in its roof panelling, parts of its water piping was found to be faulty, potential legionella bacteria was detected in its water testing and lead contamination was found in its drinking water.

Since these issues were identified, some have been resolved but others remain in question.

The Department of Health recently told Perth Now that a “two-day stagnation pre-condition” would occur as part of the final testing process in mid to late March, with the final approval on the safety of its drinking water due in April.

The hospital was due to open more than two years ago – in late 2015 – but is now scheduled to open in May.

Register for Ozwater’18 to hear more from Murdoch University’s Nandini Rastogi on wastewater recycling in urban Western Australia.

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