Darfield residents struck by E. coli

Water contaminated with E. coli has caused severe poisoning in Darfield, with some residents receiving late boil-water notices.

The Selwyn District Council last Friday issued a boil-water notice for Darfield and rural Selwyn residents after high levels of E. coli were found in water samples.

The bacteria, found in the intestines of animals, can cause severe food poisoning in humans, and symptoms include nausea, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fatigue and fever.

The council lifted the boil-water notice yesterday, but some residents say they did not receive the original notification.

A Darfield resident, who asked not to be named, said she and her husband had become ''very unwell'' after drinking contaminated water last week.

She said residents had received their boil-water notifications on different days. Some received it last Friday but others did not receive letters until this week.

The woman said she was concerned about the communication issues.

''A lot of people were drinking infected water without knowing about it, and that's not right,'' she said.

Nancy Dimmock, of the Darfield Medical Centre, said the bug had ''taken its toll'' on residents.

''We've had an increase in phone calls asking about E. coli, but most people are riding it out at home, I think, unless they get dehydrated,'' she said.

Darfield High School principal James Morris said about 20 pupils were absent on Monday.

''We were definitely hearing about tummy bugs and sickness and we had double our usual amount of absences on Monday,'' he said.

He said the school did not receive official notification from the council until Monday.

A spokeswoman for Darfield Primary School said about 20 pupils had been away at the start of the week.

''We've got some staff away with stomach bugs too, but it's hard to know whether a bug is going around or whether it's because of the E. coli in the water,'' she said.

Both schools said people received notifications from Friday to Tuesday, the same day the notice was lifted.

The council's media release from Friday said high levels of rain last week had resulted in ''unacceptable levels'' of E. coli.

Council utilities officer Lisa Duder said today that the council received the results of the water testing at noon on Friday and did ''everything we possibly could'' to notify people.

Duder said she was aware that mail delivery had been a ''little slow'' and that some people had not received letters until yesterday.

''We have had a few reports of sickness, but nothing is confirmed as E. coli,'' she said.

''The water tests failed on Thursday and Friday but were clear for the next few days; that's why we removed the notice on Tuesday.''

Water supply to the area was today switched back to a 250-metre-deep groundwater well just outside Darfield.

''We had a pump failure that needed replacing, so that's taken a while, and residents were back on water from the Waimakariri River, and Murphy's law meant we had E. coli and the subsequent boil-water notifications.''

The water from the bore was clean and unchlorinated, she said.

The Press