Stream closer to being safe for kids

17:00, Aug 31 2010
STREAM
SAFER: Jayden and Ziana Mansell, foreground, with Jude Chambers and Finley Braud in the background at Little Oneroa Stream.

Water quality tests of Little Oneroa Stream show E.coli levels have dropped below Ministry of Health guidelines for recreational water for the first time in five years.

However public health warning signs will stay because levels could rise dangerously this summer.

The signs were put up in January 2008.

Shortly before this three-year-old Theo Watson became seriously ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after playing in the stream.

Auckland City Council Hauraki Gulf Islands manager Geoff Atherfold says two problem sites were identified from previous audit inspections but now both appear to be working as required.

Little Oneora Stream is also affected by animal waste from the farm at the top of the stream and the water bird life at the bottom.

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Stormwater runoff from properties is also an issue.

"Due to these impacts, we need to keep the signage in place," Mr Atherfold says.

The Auckland City Council environment team takes samples from the stream, lagoon and beach water each month and tests for E.coli and enterococci.

Results are sent to the Waiheke Island wastewater officer who tries to identify potential problems with failing septic systems.

Major council events such as the Teddy Bears Picnic and Carols by Candlelight take place at Little Oneroa Beach. It is also popular with parents of small toddlers.

"It's an embarrassment that we don't have clean water for our kids to play in, especially as Waiheke is a tourist destination," mum Kim Moore says.

Many tourists could be unaware of the contamination because signs are next to the playground, not on the beach.

"I see tourists' kids in there all the time who are unaware of the danger," mum Meagen France says.

Because the stream is so close to the playground it makes it "nearly impossible to keep toddlers out", says dad Mark Sommerset.

Many parents have "simply stopped going to Little Oneroa", he says.

In the past the Oneroa stream was a place where children swam and played.

Mr Atherfold says ideally every waterway on the island would be meeting the recreational water standards.

Regular testing and investigations of sources of contamination in the Little Oneroa Stream will continue and "we will re-assess the potential health risk when enough data is collected".

In the summer the lagoon will be drained to allow flushing if there has not been any rain or tidal flushing.

The council is also planning planting to improve water quality.

Transition Towns member and Little Oneroa regular James Samuels says: "Imagine a future where the stream water is clean enough that we can teach our kids to swim in the lagoon."

He urges all members of the community to work together to come up with a solution before Christmas.

And Waiheke Community Board chairman Tony Sears says: "All of us are responsible for our own wastewater. If it is not working."We need to take action, especially if we wish to avoid reticulation in the future."

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