Dirty water is not due to farming - council

01:00, Jul 02 2013

Tasman District Council has rejected farming as a cause for Richmond's contaminated drinking water.

The annual Drinking Water in New Zealand survey showed Richmond was one of the areas with E coli in the water supply, indicating it had faecal contamination.

The Green Party said the increase nationally in people drinking unclean water - up 20,000 to 92,000 - was most likely caused by intensified farming, as some of the worst results were in small, rural towns.

However, the district council has rejected that as a cause in Richmond, which has twice had boil water notices issued.

The unclean water in December 2011 was caused by the big flood, and in January this year the source of E coli found at the reservoir creek on Richmond hill could not be identified, council spokesman Chris Choat said.

A new $4.19 million water treatment plant with ultraviolet disinfection is to be built in lower Queen St for the Richmond and Waimea supply. It is expected to be commissioned at the end of next year.

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Water for Richmond comes from a bore field opposite NPI and is also pumped up to a number of reservoirs in the Richmond hills.

The Waimea bore field is below the stock car circuit near the river. Water from there is then pumped up to a reservoir in the Richmond hills.

The water was tested three times a week, Mr Choat said.

In the January case the E coli reading was very low but the boil water notice had been issued as a precautionary measure.

The water treatment upgrade was to meet drinking water standards and for security of supply, he said. "It is generally accepted the water is of a high standard but with new drinking water standards we need to step it up a bit."

Medical officer of health Jill Sherwood said there had been an issue with the Richmond water supply in several instances in the past two years where a bore was found to be contaminated and the council had kept the Public Health Service informed throughout its response. There was no evidence of illness resulting from the contamination.

Mr Choat said Dovedale had a permanent boil water notice because its supply was stream-fed.

The worst regions for excessive E coli breaches were Canterbury (19,010 people drinking polluted water); Waikato (15,314); Hawke's Bay (13,063) and Otago (12,179).

The areas with most people which had E coli transgressions were Havelock North (Hawke's Bay), Quarry Hill (Dunedin) and Richmond.

The report said that in all those places, "remedial actions" were taken immediately in almost all cases, and there were no reports of water-borne illness outbreaks among these communities.

Green Party water spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the number drinking unsafe water was unacceptable.

She said a decision by the Government in 2010 to cut funding to the Capital Assistance Programme - which supports small communities to improve drinking water quality - was part of the problem.

"The report shows that drinking water non-compliance is generally located in towns with populations of less than 5000 people," she said.

The report said 31 per cent of small water supplies did not meet bacteriological standard. Protecting the quality of source waters was probably the most important way to manage drinking water supply to meet the standards.

The Nelson Mail