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’’.