Selwyn council criticised after outbreak

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 19:37 28/08/2012

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The Selwyn District Council needs to "wake up to its responsibility" and address its recurring water issues, a medical officer of health says.

The criticism follows a gastroenteritis outbreak in Darfield that has struck down 128 residents.

By this evening there had been 22 confirmed cases of campylobacter, a bacteria that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

E. coli was found in the town’s drinking water supply and a boil-water notice was issued on August 17. It was lifted four days later.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) is investigating the outbreak, interviewing those who fell ill about their behaviour before and during the boil-water notice.

Board medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said more than one barrier had failed, resulting in the ‘‘serious outbreak’’.

‘‘Intensified farming now means that a lot of water is contaminated with animal faeces, especially the Waimakariri after heavy rains, and secondly, the chlorination of this heavily contaminated water fell short of levels required to make it safe,’’ he said.

The importance of protecting water from source to tap was ‘‘sometimes lost in political imperatives’’.

Humphrey said the council needed to ‘‘wake up to its responsibility’’ to protect water.

Council asset delivery manager Murray Washington this week said ‘‘the damage had obviously been done’’ before the boil-water notice was issued.

Darfield is the third Selwyn community to be issued with a boil-water notice this year.

A Selwyn District council spokeswoman said tonight: ‘‘The council is very mindful of its responsibilities around water quality and we are working on our Public Health Risk Management and Asset Management Plans – and we have to take reasonable and practicable steps to meet the requirements of these. 

"We are constantly looking at ways to ensure and improve water quality in the 30 water supply schemes covering our 6600kmsq district.’’

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