Wairarapa's water has unwelcome guest

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 14/04/2014

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Detect an odd flavour to the tap water? It may be a particle of poo.

A Ministry of Health report shows faecal matter was detected in the drinking water supplies serving more than 8000 people in the Wairarapa.

Tap water in Carterton, Featherston and Martinborough was found to have "excessive" recordings of E coli bacteria detected in the year from July 2012 to June 2013.

The bacteria was a strong sign, the report concluded, that the water had been contaminated with faeces. Other bacteria responsible for serious health issues, including stomach bugs giardia and campylobacter, could also be present.

These results may explain the difference between the taste of Wairarapa and city water - supplies in the capital, Hutt Valley, Porirua and Kapiti Coast had a year free from contamination.

Nationwide, 48,000 people were exposed to faecal-contaminated drinking water, the report said.

A number of districts in Wairarapa - including Greytown, Carterton, Featherston and Martinborough - were also found to have water treatment facilities that could not deal with outbreaks of bugs such as giardia.

Drinking water in Wellington city, Porirua and Hutt Valley is treated and supplied by Greater Wellington Regional Council. But in Wairarapa and Kapiti the district councils are in charge.

Green MP Eugenie Sage said the Government was to blame for the fouled water, with a policy of loosening standards for water quality likely to see the problem exacerbated.

South Wairarapa District Council was responsible for the tap water in Greytown, Featherston and Martinborough.

Infrastructure manager Mark Allingham said no boil-water notices had been issued since July 2012, which councils must do if faeces are detected in the pipe supply.

Problems with the testing were to blame for detection of E coli, which can also live in people and animal's intestine, he said.

"The one point that came up and failed several times was a tap that was in a horse paddock. We believe the horse may have been sucking or licking the tap."

Re-testing cleared the water supply, Allingham said.

Carterton's water engineer, Stu Clark, said the concentration of E coli picked up was well below the level at which consumers would get sick from drinking it.

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- The Dominion Post

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