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Quality of drinking water

In 2011 a total of 336,406 analyses were performed by Group laboratories on drinking water, which amounts to over 900 per day.
The controls on the quality of the water used in the production of water for drinking and human consumption are governed by Legislative Decree no. 152/2006 and Legislative Decree no. 31/2001, respectively.
The controls are carried out by the water service manager and the USL (Local Health Authorities) at the source sampling points, at the potability and accumulation plants and along the adduction and distribution networks.
Hera has developed a Group Control Plan which describes the sampling points and the control methods applied (analytic parameters and frequencies). The Control Plan is developed on the basis of guidelines for the TOSs focusing on the water's chemical, physical and bacteriological characteristics, to protect full compliance with legal requirements and ensure an excellent quality product.

How much does water cost?

Consuming tap water instead of mineral water, other than benefiting the environment, also provides economic savings: considering an average yearly consumption level of 1,000 litres for a family of three, and an average price in Italy of 35 cents per litre for certain commercially distributed mineral waters, the yearly expenditure for mineral water totals approx. Euro 350. By contrast, yearly expenditure for the same quantity of mains water comes to only Euro 1.61. Italy is at the first place in Europe and second in the world with 192 litres of water consumed per capita in 2009 (Source: Beverfood 2011), after Mexico and ahead of the United Arab Emirates, which is at third place with 151 litres consumed per capita.


Water quality also means controlling the effectiveness of the treatment process. For example, chlorides and trihalomethanes are searched for, which result, respectively, from the use of chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite as disinfectants. The concentration of chloride and trihalomethanes in the distribution network is constantly kept under control within the legal limits.
Beginning in 2008, the average data recorded for the pH, total hardness, dry solids at 180°, chloride, fluoride, sodium, nitrate ion, nitrite and ammonium are made public every six months via publication on the Group's website, listed by individual municipality. These parameters show the quality of the drinking water distributed and can be compared to the quality of the bottled water available for sale.
Since January 2009, all of the drinking water production plants in Romagna have been managed by Romagna Acque - Societā delle Fonti, the company established for this purpose by the local Romagna administrations. So, the water distributed in the areas of Forlė-Cesena, Ravenna and Rimini is purchased wholesale by that company, and Hera's involvement in quality is limited to managing the supplementary disinfection stations along the distribution networks.

Hera working with Coop for "Acqua di casa mia" ("My home's water")

Labels on the quality of tap water arrived at the Coop Estense points of sale in Modena and Ferrara for the first time in January 2012. Coop's initiative is part of the "Acqua di casa mia" campaign and is carried out with the contribution of Hera, which provided the data on water controls carried out throughout the area and organised information points in the main hypermarkets involved. The announcements with the tap water label were put up in the mineral water aisles at all points of sale. 41 points of sale in 29 municipalities in the Modena and Ferrara areas are involved in the project.

 
Quality parameter comparison between water distributed by Hera and commercially available mineral water products
 Mineral waters
(min-max)
Tap water limits
Legisl.D. 31/2001
Bologna
TOS
Ferrara
TOS
Forlė-Cesena
TOS
Imola-Faenza
TOS
Modena
TOS
Ravenna
TOS
Rimini
TOS
pH5.8-8.46.5-9.57.57.77.77.57.57.87.5
Hardness (°F)3-9350*27212631332128
Fixed solids at 180° (mg/l)22.3-1,3001,500*345265319418538288383
Sodium (mg/l)0.9-74.720020171931522828
Fluorides (mg/l)0.07-1.11.5< 0.100.110.140.140.100.100.14
Nitrates (mg/l)1-19.5550795102049
Chlorides (mg/l)0.3-78.425026272340833639

* Recommended values
Comparison carried out with the data provided on the labels of 17 commercially available mineral waters, excluding the parameter "Hardness" for which the data published by the magazine Altroconsumo was used (no. 184, July-August 2005). The data regarding Hera water refer to the average values of 14,431 analyses carried out according to the frequency and withdrawal points on the distribution network set forth in the control and monitoring plan for the water system.


The assessments of the quality of drinking water distributed, as compared to the quality of mineral water, are carried out based on the analytic parameters which are commonly surveyed at the representative sampling points of the water networks: pH, hardness, dry solids at 180°, sodium, fluoride, nitrite and chlorides.
The parameters chosen to measure the quality of water distributed primarily refer to the importance of distributing drinking water that contains a suitable amount of mineral salts.

 

In good water: the report on drinking water quality

In September 2009 Hera published "In buone acque" [In Good Water], the first report published in Italy by a water service operator on the quality of drinking water. The report's 2010 edition was presented at the Festival dell'Acqua (Water festival) in Genoa on 5 September 2011, and it aims to communicate the quality of Hera's drinking water in order to consolidate the trust of the public and motivate them to a more aware and sustainable use of this resource. The report describes the roles and responsibilities of planners, controllers and controlled parties, water treatment, purification and distribution processes, the controls that Hera and public entities carry out and the relative results, and awareness initiatives enacted by Hera with the aim to modify the individual habits and behaviours. The 2010 edition of the report was published in August 2011 with an updated graphic design and with contributions from Federutility, Arpa, Romagna Acque, Last Minute Market and Inran.


Also in 2011 it is confirmed that the average values for Hera water are comparable with those of commercial mineral waters.
Considering several significant parameters in terms of assessing water quality (aluminium, cadmium, chlorites, Escherichia coli, iron, manganese, nitrates, lead and trihalomethanes-total), in 2011 a total of 43,793 analyses were performed. Of these, 99.6% gave a result in compliance with the legal limit, showing essentially stable quality with respect to the previous year (the percentage of non-compliant analysis is calculated through the percentage ratio between the number of compliant analyses, that is, analyses with all parameters in compliance with the limits set forth in Legislative Decree no. 31/2001, and the total number of analyses). In cases where even one parameter falls within non-compliant levels, Hera immediately carries out interventions to return to compliant levels (washing of pipes, controlling disinfection, etc.) also based on the indications of the Local Health Authorities.
For hygienic, health and public safety reasons, the Municipality may issue an ordinance declaring that the water is not drinkable during specific periods of time, when the service will be interrupted. In these cases, it will be prohibited to use water for cooking and drinking, or particular precautions will need to be adopted (e.g., boiling), while as a rule the water can continue to be used for all other purposes.
During 2011 there were no departures from the limits set forth in Legislative Decree no. 31/2001. 13 ordinances referring to unsuitable drinking water were issued by mayors which, in any event, referred to small networks servicing a very low number of users. The main causes were attributable to microbiological pollution caused by sudden worsening in the quality of supply sources or by the malfunctioning of disinfection plants. Five ordinances regarded the municipality of Pievepelago (MO), for which the integrated water service was assigned to Hera in 2011; the inherited plant situation was rather precarious and structural work was planned in order to guarantee a higher level of quality and reliability. All of the cases were resolved in brief periods of time and with limited difficulties, and there was no evidence of hygienic or health consequences for the users.

The Hera Group Laboratory System

Analysis is carried out through the Hera Group Laboratory System which consists of three major laboratories, located in Bologna, Forlė and Ravenna and seven logistics units for sampling that are located throughout the region and are in close contact with the water purification and waste water treatment plants. The Group Laboratory System covers 5,000 sq.m. of structures, while over 1 million 200 thousand calculations were carried out in 2011, which is approximately 3,000 per day, by 80 technicians. The main operating units comprise a SINAL (Lab analysis quality certification) accredited "multi-site" laboratory that complies with the UNI EN ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard. The laboratory system quality management system is certified in compliance with the UNI EN ISO 9001:2008 standard.
The Bologna laboratory, dedicated to analysing drinking water, waste water and microbiological analyses is recognised by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research as a research laboratory and is equipped with highly specialised equipment that is able to carry out research of micro pollutants such as endocrine interference agents: this is the first laboratory in Italy to have accredited those parameters.
The Forlė laboratory, where analyses are carried out on solid waste, sludges, atmospheric emissions and organic micro pollutants, is one of the most advanced facilities in Europe: it is equipped with highly automated, sensitive and accurate equipment, including a mass spectrometer that uses a magnetic sector, an instrument with a very high resolution that is able to analyse organic micro-pollutants such as dioxins, furans and PCB.
In 2011, the Forlė laboratory also obtained a certification in the emissions sector.


As regards water analyses, the Group's Laboratory System has set up a specific sample transport service, which is ISO 9001 certified and operates 7 days per week, in order to transport samples located throughout the area to the Bologna laboratory. The means of transport are extremely suitable to storing the samples withdrawn (refrigeration and recording of transport temperatures), demonstrating the fact that the amount and quality of controls do not depend on the physical place where the analysis is carried out if the correct sampling operations and transport of the samples is guaranteed.
The results of the analyses are published by the operators of the purification plants on the same day as the sampling is carried out. The availability of the results of the microbiological analyses is guaranteed in at least 24-48-72 hours. Tools are also available for analysing numerous parameters in real time, and emergency management services are set up, through which operations of water purification, waste water treatment and waste treatment plants can obtain support for analyses and sampling 24 hours a day.
In 2011 a total of 336,406 analyses were performed by Group laboratories on drinking water, which amounts to over 900 per day, and 56% were carried out in the distribution networks.

At Hera, we drink tap water

The Hera2O project, which began in 2008, promotes the drinking of tap water by Hera employees. By drinking approximately 460,000 litres of tap water in 2011 thanks to the dispensers installed in the canteens and offices, Hera workers avoided the production of over 700,000 plastic bottles (0.50 litre bottles were taken into consideration for canteens and individual use, and 1.50 litre bottles for offices and meeting rooms), resulting in energy savings of approximately 48 toe, 135 fewer metric tons of CO2 emissions and approximately 450 fewer bins of waste to be managed.


Taking into account the considerable concern over the presence of asbestos-cement pipes in Hera's water network, for some time the company has carried out constant checks on the state of the pipes through a plan of controls to test for asbestos fibres in the water. The use of asbestos, a common practice in construction in other industrial sectors up to the end of the 1980's, was definitively banned in 1992. While it has been recognised that the inhalation of asbestos fibres causes serious respiratory illnesses, there is no evidence of toxicity linked to the ingestion of asbestos. In fact, the current law in force regarding the quality of water destined for human consumption (Legislative Decree no. 31/2001 as amended and supplemented) does not set limits regarding the presence of asbestos fibres: in particular, the ministerial decree of 14 May 1996, annex 3, cites a WHO (World Health Organization) document which states that "... There is no serious evidence that the ingestion of asbestos is hazardous to health." The results of controls performed in 2011 show a general absence of asbestos fibres, with the exception of very few sampling points, where, in any event the number of fibres found was significantly below the limit of 7,000,000 fibres/litre indicated by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). Furthermore, the water has generally non-aggressive characteristics with respect to the cement framework.