Wa­ter qual­ity needs work be­fore it’s safe to drink

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Your Local News - KAROLINE TUCKEY

‘‘Things aren’t as good as they should be. ’’ Peter Cal­lan­der

Al­most one third of Manawatu¯ ’s drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply needs im­me­di­ate work to fix po­ten­tial risks to public health, an in­de­pen­dent re­port has found.

Of 55 wa­ter sup­ply sites, 18 were ranked as ‘‘be­ing high­est pri­or­ity’’. This means ac­tion is re­quired as soon as pos­si­ble be­cause of risks to public health, said Peter Cal­lan­der, tech­ni­cal wa­ter di­rec­tor with en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tancy Pat­tle De­lam­ore.

‘‘This is not to say th­ese are ab­so­lutely at risk of con­tam­i­na­tion, but in terms of cri­te­ria be­ing ap­plied through the [na­tional] Drink­ing Wa­ter Stan­dards th­ese sup­plies need to im­prove... things aren’t as good as they should be,’’ he told a Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil meet­ing on Tues­day.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was started by Hori­zons in the wake of last year’s Have­lock North drink­ing wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion, which made 5500 peo­ple sick af­ter drink­ing wa­ter con­tam­i­nated by sheep fae­ces.

The poi­son­ing led to 45 peo­ple be­ing hos­pi­talised, and was linked to the deaths of three peo­ple.

Cal­lan­der said although the er­rors made by the Hawke’s Bay coun­cils re­spon­si­ble for wa­ter sup­ply were ‘‘col­lec­tively ... fairly mi­nor’’, the in­ci­dent high­lighted how sev­eral small gaps in re­quired safe­guards could leave the wa­ter sup­ply vul­ner­a­ble.

Agen­cies with re­spon­si­bil­ity for dif­fer­ent points in the wa­ter sup­ply process must work to­gether, mon­i­tor thor­oughly and share in­for­ma­tion proac­tively to en­sure the wa­ter was kept safe.

Many of the ‘‘gaps’’ in the Have­lock North case ex­ist widely through­out the coun­try, he said, but all or­gan­i­sa­tions and staff who en­sure wa­ter safety must take ‘‘per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity’’.

‘‘I don’t think it is an un­der­state­ment to say drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply has po­ten­tially the most se­ri­ous of con­se­quences of any is­sue.

‘‘It takes a few days to re­alise any­thing is hap­pen­ing. In that case there was about five days where the con­tam­i­nated wa­ter was be­ing pumped through the sys­tem be­fore it was no­ticed. It can be hugely sig­nif­i­cant.’’

The Manawatu¯ re­port used the lat­est data, up to mid-2016, and some changes had been made since then, Cal­lan­der said.

‘‘Some de­tec­tions [of con­tam­i­nants] oc­curred. They are iso­lated and low, but the fact that some bugs are get­ting through is a con­cern.’’

At many of the 18 ‘pri­or­ity 1’ sites, mon­i­tor­ing was not car­ried out to na­tional stan­dards re­quired. ‘‘So you can’t be sure,’’ he said. When re­quested Hori­zons did not im­me­di­ately re­lease the lo­ca­tion of th­ese sites or the num­ber of sites ranked as pri­or­ity two - ‘‘re­quir­ing height­ened vig­i­lance’’ or pri­or­ity three - ‘‘man­aged well’’.

A data­base to share wa­ter mon­i­tor­ing in­for­ma­tion has be­gun, with Hori­zons, MidCen­tral Health Board and dis­trict coun­cils in the re­gion tak­ing part.

Cal­lan­der said more work was needed to make the data­base user friendly, in­clud­ing mak­ing it ac­ces­si­ble on­line, al­low­ing dif­fer­ent types of in­for­ma­tion to be com­pared, and pro­vid­ing vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tions.

Hori­zons coun­cil­lors voted to re­ceive the re­port, and coun­cil­lor Ni­cola Pa­trick thanked Cal­lan­der for pro­vid­ing the ‘im­por­tant’ re­port.

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