River cleared for swimming

22:30, Jan 24 2013

The Marlborough District Council yesterday cleared the Taylor River for swimming, but Sunday's raft race will still take place on dry land, organisers said.

More FM breakfast host Natasha Knox said the race was postponed from last Sunday and then moved to the riverbank this weekend because of concerns about high levels of sickness-causing bacteria in the water. The water was now OK, but levels in the river were too low to get rafts through the whole course, she said.

"We think people wouldn't be able to get their rafts down . . . they'd have to walk them in bits. It should be interesting with the change."

Council environmental monitoring officer Steffi Henkl said extra investigation had been done with samples taken along the Taylor River and its tributaries on Monday to see if there were spikes or sudden increases in bacterial concentrations, so the source of the high concentrations of bacteria could be identified.

Monitoring would continue to see if levels spiked again, and if that happened, samples would be sent to the Cawthron Institute for DNA analysis of the bacteria to give an indication of the source - human, duck, or cattle, Ms Henkl said.

Council staff would keep taking samples up and down the river. She said the source of the high levels of bacteria was "really strange".

It did not seem to be related to rainfall, unlike spikes in other areas, where the higher rain over the New Year period had washed great amounts of faecal bacteria into rivers around Marlborough. This was not the case with the Taylor River though, which had not had that level of water.

"The lower the flow, the higher the count . . . It's quite a mystery."


The Marlborough Express