30 May 2018

Hawke's Bay communities label chlorination 'overreaction'

From Checkpoint, 6:23 pm on 30 May 2018

A Hawke's Bay community says the local council's decision to chlorinate their water is a complete overreaction to the Havelock water crisis.

Nearly 400 locals in the seaside villages of Haumoana and Te Awanga, near Cape Kidnappers, have signed a petition calling for the council to stop treating their bore.

Petition organiser Sue Franklin said the bore had never had any quality issues but now the water tasted "disgusting".

"I think it's a massive arse-covering exercise ... and blanket chlorination of all water supplies is highly inappropriate, it's creating a lot more problems by having it in all the time," Ms Franklin said.

She ended up installing a $1500 water filter in her home after chlorine triggered asthma, eczema and stomach upsets.

Like all public water sources in Hastings, the bore that supplied Haumoana and Te Awanga had been treated with chlorine since March.

Hastings District Councillor Rod Heaps said the feedback from the community he had got since then had been "absolutely immense".

"They are totally aghast on the chlorination.

"We've had prestigious water but now it tastes like it comes from a swimming pool," Mr Heaps said.

In August 2016, more than 5000 people in nearby Havelock North fell ill after their water supply became contaminated with campylobacter.

The government inquiry into that outbreak recommended all drinking water should be treated.

Hastings District Council said it decided to chlorinate the Haumoana bore because it once tested positive for E coli, a month before the Havelock outbreak.

It said the inquiry also recommended that all drinking water supplies be treated at the source for public safety.

However, Mr Heaps said that 2016 test was a false positive and the council's decision was an "overreaction" to the Havelock fallout.

"I sympathise a little because they don't want to see any repeats of that because it was damaging for the whole country and especially our district," he said.

"But it's not mandatory that we should be treating other town supplies."

Hastings District Council said the Haumoana bore had been treated with very low levels of chlorine for a decade to combat naturally occuring ammonia in the water.

"Stage two of the government inquiry makes mention of a potential exemption regime whereby a water supplier could apply to have the source water treatment requirement removed if an exert panel (which does not exist yet) is fully satisfied that significant scientific investigations and risk assessments can clearly demonstrate the ongoing safety can be assured," it said.

Hastings District councillors would discuss the Haumoana and Te Awanga communities' request at its next meeting.