2 Feb 2021

Lead levels four times acceptable amount in Waikouaiti, Karitane drinking water

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 2 February 2021

Update: Two days after this interview aired it was revealed the lead level result showed contamination 40 times the acceptable limit. Not four. 

It has been revealed that today's warning for two Otago towns' residents not to drink tap water due to possible lead contamination, has come a month after sampling results were sent to officials.

The water in Waikouaiti and Karitane is not fit to drink, cook or prepare food with, until further notice. Water tankers are on the way to the areas.

Tests of the area's water was done on 8 December, 2020. Results were sent to a Dunedin City Council Three Waters staff member on 18 December.

But the results were not made known until some time in 2021, because that staff member was on holiday.

"We didn't receive those results for 10 days. Those results ended up landing in the inbox of a staff member who was on leave," Three Waters group manager Tom Dyer told Checkpoint.

That staff member returned to work some time in the new year, but Dyer could not say exactly when.

The maximum acceptable value of lead in drinking water is 10mcg/l. Dyer said they have had readings as high as 39mcg/l.

"We didn't anticipate any of these kind of results. It's definitely something we've resolved the process on now," he said.

"We've had one spike result. That was that 8 December result. We have done some testing for the month prior and those have all been within the maximum acceptable values under the drinking water standards. We've also taken tests last week that were under the maximum acceptable value.

"That means that this is not all-day, every day, and has not been all-day, every day. But it means that we've got intermittent spikes that we are not yet sure of the source.

"So as a precautionary approach, just in case they arrive again, we're asking people not to drink the water.

"The advice we've had from our public health unit has been that it is unlikely – if this has been a one-off on a single day – it is unlikely to have any major health impacts.

"However… we're asking people if they do feel they might have any health impacts to talk to their doctor as soon as possible."

The water that was tested was not going to other areas, he said, but extra testing was happening across the region.