Chlo­rine push re­jected


Geral­dine and Pleas­ant Point res­i­dents are not swal­low­ing a push to chlo­ri­nate their wa­ter sup­plies.

Ti­maru District Coun­cil is in the process of work­ing out how best to up­grade its wa­ter sup­plies, and has flagged the chlo­ri­na­tion pro­posal in its Long Term Plan.

How­ever, the pro­posal has not gone down well with lo­cals, with 97 per cent of the 427 sub­mis­sions against it. The coun­cil has also re­ceived a 300-sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion ask­ing it not to push ahead with chlo­ri­na­tion.

The rea­sons range from con­cerns around peo­ple pos­si­bly get­ting poi­soned by chlo­rine to peo­ple merely feel­ing there is no need to in­tro­duce it into the wa­ter sys­tem.

In re­sponse, coun­cil staff pre­pared a 27-page re­port out­lin­ing ad­van­tages and risks. It in­cludes anal­y­sis from a va­ri­ety of sources.

Ac­cord­ing to the staff re­port, mon­i­tor­ing of the wa­ter within the Pleas­ant Point and Geral­dine retic­u­la­tions has, at times, shown the un­ex­plained pres­ence of bac­te­ria.

Along with anal­y­sis by staff, the coun­cil also sourced in­for­ma­tion from Com­mu­nity and Pub­lic Health, the West­ern Aus­tralia Can­cer Coun­cil, and ab­stracts from two pub­lished pa­pers by wa­ter qual­ity ex­pert Dr Steve Hrudey.

Ac­cord­ing to the coun­cil re­port, ‘‘it is rea­son­able to con­clude that the pub­lic health risks (bac­te­rial or vi­ral in­fec­tion) from not chlo­ri­nat­ing th­ese sup­plies would be greater than the risks as­so­ci­ated with the chronic in­ges­tion of the low DBP con­cen­tra­tions ex­pected from chlo­ri­nat­ing the sup­plies’’.

The re­port also dis­misses claims from some sub­mit­ters that chlo­ri­nat­ing the wa­ter sup­ply will lead to in­stances of ill health and even can­cer.

‘‘There are some peo­ple that may be highly sen­si­tive to low lev­els of chlo­rine in drink­ing wa­ter. How­ever, this impacts on a very small per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion.

‘‘Coun­cil is not aware of any sig­nif­i­cant is­sue in any other of the retic­u­lated drink­ing wa­ter sys­tems in the district that are chlo­ri­nated. (Ti­maru and Te­muka’s ur­ban wa­ter sup­plies are al­ready chlo­ri­nated).

‘‘In very ex­treme cases, mea­sures can be made such as the in­stal­la­tion of a tap fil­ter for drink­ing wa­ter.’’

The coun­cil re­port also re­ferred to in­ci­dents such as last year’s con­tam­i­nated Have­lock North sup­ply scan­dal as a rea­son for en­sur­ing safety of sup­ply. Although the staff noted the risk of con­tam­i­na­tion within the dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem may not be high, ‘‘if such an in­ci­dent oc­curred there are cur­rently no bar­ri­ers in place to pro­vide pro­tec­tion to ev­ery con­sumer’’.

More than a dozen sub­mit­ters com­plained about the taste, but the staff re­port noted that the ‘‘taste and odour of drink­ing wa­ter is purely a per­sonal pref­er­ence, while the safety of those con­sum­ing the drink­ing wa­ter is the ut­most pri­or­ity’’.

Other sub­mit­ters ar­gued that there should be free­dom of choice, but once again the coun­cil staff re­buked this idea:

‘‘The is­sue with hav­ing free­dom of choice in re­la­tion to chlo­ri­nat­ing drink­ing wa­ter is that as there is no other prac­ti­cal choice than the retic­u­lated wa­ter sup­ply, if there is a con­tam­i­na­tion in­ci­dent it would likely oc­cur with­out any warn­ing or in­di­ca­tion un­til un­sus­pect­ing con­sumers were al­ready in­fected’’.

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