Water hoax hits Waikato

Hi everyone. This image is doing the rounds of Facebook - someone with too much time to kill in this wet weather,...

Posted by Waikato Regional Council on Friday, January 1, 2016

A 30-year-old hoax has hit the Waikato, forcing the regional council to reassure people that Dihydrogen Monoxide, or water, is not harmful.

A picture warning people of a spillage of hundreds of litres of Dihydrogen Monoxide into the Waikato River has been shared over 482 times.

The post says Environment Waikato, now called the Waikato Regional Council, were informed of a large spillage into the Waikato River last night. 

"Estimated to be hundreds of thousands of litres, and growing. Dihydrogen Monoxide was seen spilling out on industrial overflow pipe into the Waikato River, south of Hamilton, and reports claim the spillage is continuing."

It goes onto say that Dihydrogen Monoxide can be highly dangerous and used in the chemical manufacturing industry.

READ MORE: National MP falls victim to water hoax

"If breathed into the lungs, it can kill a grown adult in seconds."

But Dihydrogen Monoxide is a chemical name for water or H2O.

The picture has been shared at least 482 times, as well as on local Facebook groups and pages, concerning locals.

Some commenters became angry, calling for a quick clean-up and huge fines. Others got the joke and talked about it being such a huge spill, it was even leaking out of the sky.

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Spokesperson for the council, Stephen Ward, said they had received a few calls and Facebook messages from people concerned about the contamination of the river. 

"I'm not exactly sure where it was posted but basically we got alerted yesterday saying there had been some sort of spill in the Waikato River. I checked in with our guys and they hadn't responded to any incidents. 

"The chemical referred to in that post is just water. So we've done a little post on Facebook to say it is a hoax and spread the word. It's just unfortunate someone's done something like that really."

He said jokes such as this can cause people to be worried about their water.

"It's important for us to clarify it and it's not an issue for people to be concerned about.

"It's an irritating thing for people to do and it's unnecessary and it could end up wasting a lot of people's time."

The hoax appears to go back to an April Fools' day edition of an American paper in 1983. The Durand Express in Michigan reported that dihydrogen oxide had been found in the city's water pipes and warned it was fatal if inhaled. 

In 1997 a 14-year-old student gathered petitions to ban "DHMO" as the basis of his science project, titled "How Gullible Are We?"

In 2013, a Florida radio station's joke got out of hand when some DJs said "dihydrogen monoxide" was coming out of residents' taps. 

And in 2007, Kiwi National MP Jacqui Dean was tricked into calling for a ban on the drug "dihydrogen monoxide".

 - Stuff

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