Dirty creek polluting Waihi River

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014
barker's creek
WATER CONCERNS: Barker's Creek, in the Waihi River catchment, pictured during a large flow, appears to suffer from high levels of phormidium, E.coli and nitrates.

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A small creek in the Waihi River catchment could be responsible for some of the river's water pollution issues.

Environment Canterbury senior surface water quality scientist Dr David Kelly spent nearly a year investigating Barker's Creek, after locals expressed concern about the creek's water quality.

Dr Kelly said although the full results were yet to be verified, there were already some "fairly striking" patterns.

"Frequently, the creek experienced higher than the recommended health levels of E.coli, significant potentially toxic algal blooms and high levels of sediment," he said.

"It appears that the level of these environmental indicators are higher at Barker's Creek than in other parts of the Waihi catchment, which could have flow-on effects."

There were health warnings in place in various parts of the Waihi River this summer, after ECan detected significant levels of toxic algal blooms.

Currently, the river was declared safe for recreational contact at its usual monitoring spots, but Dr Kelly said it would be great to include more sites.

"Barker's Creek is in an area which has a very mixed land use, and this might contribute to some of its issues. You have sheep, beef, deer and dairy farming in a relatively small area," he said.

Dr Kelly said the high levels of sediment in the creek could be partly attributed to a landslip north of Mees Rd in the upper part of the catchment.

"So there could be ways to address this, through revegetation or retiring some of the land," he said.

"However, I don't think that can be the only reason for high sediment levels, because other parts of the creek not in the vicinity of the slip also experience sediment build-up. There appear to be issues with stock moving near the water too."

Dr Kelly said it would be good to extend the research to other parts of the catchment.

"The more we know, the more we can determine how to address these issues. The catchment has clear pressure points."

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- The Timaru Herald

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