Clean water at last

DUBBY HENRY
Last updated 08:31 07/11/2012
Clean Bay
DUBBY HENRY
GOOD NEWS: Finally taking a paddle after a decade-long swimming ban at Kawakawa Bay are residents, from left: Joanne MacLean, Stephen Waters, John Cotman and Don Church.

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It's what Kawakawa Bay residents have been waiting a decade for - a beach safe for swimming.

The picturesque bay has been blighted since 2002 by signs warning that it's not safe to enter the water or collect shellfish because of high pollution levels.

But pollution is now a thing of the past thanks to a $29 million wastewater system.

The source of the problem was old septic tanks which were leaching pollutants into the groundwater and bacteria-laden sediments were making their way into streams and out to sea.

Long-suffering residents were told not to swim, fish or grow fruit or vegetables in the area and were offered vaccinations against hepatitis.

The warnings were a blow to residents, many of whom had fallen in love with the area during childhood holidays.

Rosemary Cotman moved there after a lifetime spent visiting the family bach, starting in 1945.

"I remember when there was a gravel road, no shops, no electricity and no phones," she says.

She reckons the problems started when people moving to the bay to live and their septic tanks, previously used sparingly, became overloaded.

The Auckland Council's new wastewater network and treatment plant - the only one of its kind in New Zealand - was completed in 2010.

The plant processes wastewater so fresh water ends up in the forest and solid waste is taken to Mangere for treatment.

All 265 houses in the bay are hooked up to the scheme, which has the potential to service 3000 people.

The Fulton Hogan company runs the plant but the contract is planned to revert to Watercare next year.

The scheme has been running for more than two years and as expected pollution levels have dropped to acceptable levels. Results from eight weeks of water sampling at five sites around the bay show the water is now safe for swimming.

Auckland Council spokeswoman Sharne Parsons says the council does not recommend swimming for 48 hours after heavy rain or near stormwater or stream mouths.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service also advises against gathering shellfish from foreshores in Auckland because they are at risk of contamination.

Kawakawa Bay will officially be declared safe on Friday at a small community gathering attended by mayor Len Brown.

Franklin Local Board deputy chairwoman Jan Sinclair hopes residents and visitors will attend what will be a "wonderful occasion".

"I know a lot of people will share our delight as we celebrate the end of the era of warning signs at Kawakawa Bay.

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"It's going to be a great summer," she says.

The ceremony will run from 3pm to 3.30pm with light refreshments. Everyone's welcome.

Call 292 2214 for more information.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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