Baffles cut waterfront levels of contamination

Cleaner water good news for waterfront divers

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 06:32 25/06/2014
Wellington dive platform
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

JUMPING FOR JOY: Fans of the dive platform on Wellington Waterfront could be back in the water this summer, with tests showing a vast improvement in bacteria levels in the water.

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Thrill seekers wanting a dip should be able to leap back into the harbour this summer.

Wellington Waterfront is confident contamination levels at the popular dive platform at the end of Taranaki St should be under control by this summer, judging by the early success of anti-pollution measures.

The platform was closed in February last year after faecal contamination levels spiked at nearly 500 times recommended safe levels.

Enterococci bacteria levels had reached 69,000cfu (colony-forming units) per 100 millilitres of water on one occasion in January, and the average reading was 3094cfu/100ml.

Anything over 280cfu is considered an unacceptable health risk, and 140cfu is considered the safe level.

In a bid to bring the contamination under control, the Wellington City Council-owned company Wellington Waterfront has spent about $150,000 installing baffles that deflect water from a nearby stormwater drain away from the jump zone.

Installation was completed in March, and early readings show a vast improvement - with an average reading on the surface of 44cfu since May 5, compared with 143cfu outside the baffles.

Waterfront chief executive Ian Pike said he was optimistic the platform would reopen for swimmers this summer. "That's the objective really, and we have got reason to be hopeful with these results."

The water had reached 160cfu in April, but that had dissipated within a day.

That would happen "from time to time", and the focus now was on continuing to monitor the water to make sure there were no long-term trends.

In particular, the testing had been done during relatively calm weather, so there would be testing in different weather systems to see how the baffles coped with a deluge of rain, he said.

"We're happy with where they are, but we're cautiously happy."

Cafe Moana operates from a caravan next to the dive platform, and owner Ruth Belton was excited it could be reopening. While it did not bring a lot of extra custom, it added a lot of buzz to the area, she said.

The waterfront was always a popular place for events, and the platform "is a continual event", she said, regularly resulting in hundreds of people gathered around watching the jumpers.

While few people had paid attention to the health warning signs initially, numbers dropped considerably after The Dominion Post revealed contamination levels in January. "Then there was only the odd wayward teenager using it."

It was great to see the council investing money in things to enhance the city. She had even taken the plunge once herself - "It was my new year resolution."

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- The Dominion Post

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