In­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gins over wa­ter saga

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Conversations - JONO GALUSZKA

Manawatu¯ ’s mayor and Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil are step­ping up pres­sure on the Gov­ern­ment to deal more ef­fec­tively with fall­out from the Ohakea air­base wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion saga.

Manawatu¯ mayor He­len Wor­boys has vis­ited res­i­dents around the base be­cause of com­mu­nity con­cerns about the qual­ity of in­for­ma­tion be­ing pro­vided.

Some had talked about suf­fer­ing headaches and ill­ness, she said.

‘‘What I am hear­ing from our af­fected com­mu­nity mem­bers is that the in­for­ma­tion they are be­ing pro­vided with is in­con­sis­tent and un­clear,’’ she said.

Le­gal ac­tion could re­sult from the saga, with Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil of­fi­cially in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent.

The De­fence Force stopped us­ing a spe­cific fire­fight­ing foam in 2002 af­ter con­cerns were raised about two chem­i­cals, PFOS and PFOA.

It got ini­tial re­sults back about pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion of wa­ter in 2015, but did not in­form the Gov­ern­ment un­til Au­gust.

The Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment has since done test­ing at Ohakea, and found 19 prop­er­ties near the base had the toxic foam con­tam­i­nants on the land.

There were also higher-thanac­cept­able lev­els of the chem­i­cals in drink­ing wa­ter on 13 prop­er­ties tested.

Some lo­cal farm­ers have told Stuff they were not no­ti­fied of the is­sue, while law firm Shine Lawyers – which is run­ning a class ac­tion against the Aus­tralian De­fence Force over sim­i­lar is­sues – has started meet­ing with peo­ple po­ten­tially af­fected.

Of­fi­cials in New Zealand have said the prob­lem is much worse in Aus­tralia be­cause of the amount of area in­volved and con­cen­tra­tion of chem­i­cals.

None­the­less, Wor­boys said peo­ple had re­ported an­i­mals per­form­ing poorly on land near the Ohakea base, but then seem­ing to re­cover when moved.

‘‘In ad­di­tion to wa­ter use, res­i­dents have con­cerns about the fu­ture of their farms, and are ask­ing for fur­ther test­ing of the soil.

‘‘These peo­ple, many of whom have lived here for gen­er­a­tions, are gen­uinely wor­ried about their fu­ture.’’

Hori­zons chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael McCart­ney said the lack of good in­for­ma­tion was con­cern­ing, with the coun­cil be­com­ing aware just be­fore the story broke in De­cem­ber.

PHOTO: GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Manawatu¯ mayor He­len Wor­boys says peo­ple liv­ing near Ohakea are re­port­ing ill­ness.

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