Bioassays and Risk Communication
Chemical pollution is an increasing threat to Queensland waterways, oceans and drinking water sources. Examples include pesticides, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Conventional monitoring programs can not evaluate the full range of pollutants or their combined effects or transformations. New cell-based bioassays are now available that target specific mechanisms of toxicity and give a measure of the toxicity of mixtures. Such tools could enable an informed discussion of water quality suitability for various purposes.
This project focused on implementing, validating and expanding bioanalytical tools for cost-efficient water quality monitoring. It aimed to develop the scientific, technical and communication basis for bioanalytical tools. Research questions addressed include:
- What are the major findings of previous and current Australian bioassays?
- How can the robustness and applicability of bioassays be increased?
- How can the extraction/enrichment of complex water matrices be improved to increase the sensitivity of bioanalysis methods?
- How can bioanalysis methods be extended with more integrative endpoints of direct relevance to human health, and thereby extend the battery of screening tools?
- What are the elements of successful communications strategies regarding bioanalytical tools and their results?
Key Publications and Outputs
- Technical Report 30, 41, and 72
- Conference papers listed on the Alliance website
- Proceedings of the Alliance Science Forums
Macova, M., Escher, B.I., Reungoat, J., Carswell, S., Lee Chue, K., Keller, J. and Mueller, J.F. (2010). Monitoring the biological activity of micropollutants during advanced wastewater treatment with ozonation and activated carbon filtration. Water Research, 44, (2), 477-492.
Bioassays are providing an important new tool complementary to traditional chemical analysis and relevant for licensing. Bioassays undertaken by the Alliance have confirmed that purified recycled water is as clean as current drinking water in South East Queensland. Analysis also supports the stipulation of toxicity limits in Queensland for regulated sewage discharges. This project is linked with other Alliance projects including Enhanced Treatment, PRW and Systemic Social analysis.
Over time, bioanalysis tools have the capacity to contribute to the development of a strategic approach to water quality monitoring. This is anticipated to contribute to monitoring strategies that will meet community expectations and ensure safe exposures to a wide range of water sources. Improved detection of the presence of chemicals in water will enhance risk assessment and inform future water management options in Queensland, with a particular focus on water recycling from sewage. A series of workshops are intended to disseminate results and will include interviews with participants. A book translating science into application – “Bioanalytical Tools in Water Quality Assessment” has now been published. Results are directly relevant to Drinking Water Quality Guidelines and regulations, as well as to the regulation of wastewater treatment plants under the Queensland Environmental Protection Act. (1994). Ultimately this has implications for drinking water and wastewater treatment plant design and management.
Dr Beate Escher, The University of Queensland
Ph: +61-7-3274 9480