Decision time for dirty river

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 10:40 16/06/2014
taylor river

BARKING AND BATHING: The Taylor River Reserve is a popular spot for dogs but not so great for swimming.

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Blenheim people will have to make a choice between dogs using the Taylor River Reserve or being able to swim in the river, a council report suggests.

The recreational water survey, carried out last summer, showed the quality of water in most waterways around Marlborough was improving, particularly at the Picton foreshore and Rai River test sites.

Picton had improved because of maintenance work done on the sewerage system, stopping sewer pipes leaking into stormwater, and the Rai River improvements reflected upgrades dairy farmers had made on their farms.

However, the study showed the Taylor River remained one of the most contaminated waterways in Marlborough.

The study monitored 21 popular beaches and river sites each week from the beginning of November last year until the end of March this year. Samples were analysed for concentrations of faecal indicator bacteria to assess the risk to recreational users' health.

"Except for the Taylor River at riverside, unsafe faecal bacteria concentrations were generally associated with rainfall or flood events." Analysis of faecal contamination in the Taylor River showed it was mainly from dogs and wildfowl. This might explain the unpredictability of the faecal bacterial contamination at the site, the report said.

"The unpredictability of faecal contamination potentially increases the risk to human health as no general rule of thumb can be given as to when the water is safe for swimming and other contact recreation. As E coli concentrations continue to be at a relatively high level, it appears that there is a potential conflict between the use of the Taylor River for swimming on one hand and as a dog exercise and duck feeding area on the other.

"A decision as to which of the uses are of greater importance may have to be made by the residents of Blenheim."

Environment committee chairman Peter Jerram said the council encouraged people walking their dogs beside the Taylor River to take plastic bags with them to pick up their dogs' droppings.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said it was a hard issue.

The Taylor River was Blenheim's major dog exercising area.

"I don't think they'd take too kindly to fencing off the river, not that that's practical. We can't do much about the ducks either."

There might have to be some compromise at the end of the day, he said, for the people who wanted to swim in the river.

It was not an easy issue to resolve, Sowman said.

The report had only just been tabled at last week's environment committee and he had not discussed it with councillors.

"We need to examine the report in detail."

The report did highlight the importance of the river and the council was working on a plan to clean it up, Sowman said.

The council had several projects studying the water quality of the Taylor River, including studies of the main contributors to the river, such as the rural tributary Doctors Creek and the suburban spring-fed Murphy's Creek.

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- The Marlborough Express

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