Saturday, 20 August 2016

New Zealand's dirty, dirty secret

Visiting Christchurch? Don’t Drink the Water. No Seriously. It’s Untreated and There’s No Accountability



19 August, 2016

New Zealand’s claim to be a first world country took a severe battering with the mass outbreak of Campylobacter from Havelock North’s untreated water supply. Up to 4,100 people are believed to have been affected and at least one person has died as a result, two others are in emergency are.



Over 4100 people have now been affected by Havelock Nth gastro outbreak. 106 confirmed cases of campylobacter. 15 in hospital, 2 in ICU.


Now we learn that Christchurch also has untreated water and that it tested positive for E.coli bacteria (an indicator of faecal contamination) 14 times last year. E. coli has often been associated with cow faeces, of which New Zealand has plenty.

Apparently the council are responsible for looking after the town’s water, which means councillors are not personally responsible if anyone is ill from drinking it. You get sick, you’re basically on your own: paying your own medical bills (not cheap in NZ) and losing income from work. In other words it’s your fault for deciding to drink untreated water, even if you didn’t know about it.


She’ll be right, it’s too hard” is not an effective public health measure for most first world countries

According to the local press
Not treating Christchurch drinking water potentially saved “billions of dollars” but one lobbyist said if councillors were personally liable for the consequences they would not take the risk.
The council tests water daily for E coli, but it took 24 hours to get results. A total of 5487 samples were tested for E coli over the 2015 to 2016 reporting year…Currently only Akaroa, Takamatua, Duvauchelle and Little River have a chlorinated water supply in Christchurch. source



John Pfahlert, chief executive of lobby group Water New Zealand, said
The issue that happened in Havelock North could easily happen in Canterbury. It has happened in Darfield.” He said it was up to communities to decide whether their water was chlorinated, but they should bear in mind the greater risk they exposed themselves to.

And what about the tourists and visitors to Chritschurch who don’t get a say?…
Pfahlert said an organisation with a personally-liable board of directors would “never take that risk“. “Because councillors are not personally liable for those consequences, we get a bunch of different outcomes around the country.” He recommended central government consider whether water chlorination should be mandatory.
Even if we decide to do nothing, we will have looked under the hood.”

100% pure New Zealand. Not even close.


Isn’t it time to drop the pretense before someone sues for false advertising? Let’s drink to that. With bottled water.

Positive E coli tests 'not surprising' in Christchurch untreated water supply




19 August, 2016

E coli bacteria were found in Christchurch water 14 times during regular tests by Christchurch City Council last year.

The figures, released in the wake of the Havelock North water contamination crisis, has prompted calls for the city to reconsider chlorination.

Not treating Christchurch drinking water potentially saved "billions of dollars" but one lobbyist said if councillors were personally liable for the consequences they would not take the risk.

The council tests water daily for E coli, but it took 24 hours to get results. A total of 5487 smples were tested for E coli over the 2015 to 2016 reporting year.

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said the 14 positive tests should not cause alarm, but they did highlight a risk.


"What's happening in Havelock North is a salient reminder of how important it is to protect our water supply."

Currently only Akaroa, Takamatua, Duvauchelle and Little River have a chlorinated water supply in Christchurch.

Humphrey said it was "not surprising" that E coli was detected from time to time in a large untreated water system.

The Christchurch City Council's head of three waters and waste John Mackie said it could take 24 hours for E coli test results to come through.

"We have extra monitoring in Christchurch because our community have chosen as a group not to have their water treated."

He said a "belt and braces" approach would be to chlorinate the supply, which would reduce risk even further.

"From a health perspective we would generally advocate for the very safest water."

Christchurch's water supply is graded "b", or "satisfactory, very low level of risk". Without treating the water with systems such as chlorination, UV light, and membrane filtration, it is impossible for Christchurch to get an "a" rating.

That does not mean the water is bad, it just means it carries more risk.

Humphrey said he was happy to drink Christchurch tap water. "As a Christchurch resident, it's one of the things I'm most proud of."

But he said it was worth revisiting the chlorination debate, especially in light of the campylobacter infection in Havelock North's water supply.

Because Christchurch takes its water from many wells and bores around the city, it would be more difficult and expensive to treat than in a city with one water source, such as a river.

Humphrey said not treating the water saved the ratepayers "millions, probably billions of dollars".

He said the systems in place to deal with an outbreak were "by and large" adequate. "I have warned people that this is a risk that we have to be mindful of."

John Pfahlert, chief executive of lobby group Water New Zealand, said low risk did not mean no risk. "[In Havelock North] the probability was low, but we've infected 3000 people," he said.

"The issue that happened in Havelock North could easily happen in Canterbury. It has happened in Darfield."

He said it was up to communities to decide whether their water was chlorinated, but they should bear in mind the greater risk they exposed themselves to.

Pfahlert said an organisation with a personally-liable board of directors would "never take that risk".

"Because councillors are not personally liable for those consequences, we get a bunch of different outcomes around the country."

He recommended central government consider whether water chlorination should be mandatory.

"Even if we decide to do nothing, we will have looked under the hood."

Christchurch City Council's head of three waters and waste John Mackie said the positive E coli results were likely from water sources where damaged roofs allowed bird faeces or other matter to infect the water.

He said the council had a plan to upgrade and repair the at-risk water sources by June 2018.

Mackie said when E coli was detected, the council sterilised reservoirs and pipes, informed the public of any outbreak, and triggered a public health response.

This could be 24 hours after a sample was taken though, and Mackie said chlorination was "a debate that we need to have".

Humphries said all areas were not equal when it came to water quality, with a particularly shallow aquifer in north-western Christchurch.

The council planned to replace 22 bores in the area.

"We would like that plan to be followed through as promptly as possible," said Humphrey.




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