Chlorine is your friend, but chlorinating water in Christchurch’s northwest is off the table

As the third case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome has been linked to the Campylobacter contamination of Havelock North’s water supply, New Zealand, chlorinating water in Christchurch’s northwest is off the table, for now.

eight_col_1m1a9865The Christchurch City Council went against its own staff advice and unanimously decided on Thursday not to consider temporarily chlorinating the water from eight shallow wells that feed into three pump stations, serving about 20,000 residents.

The council instead decided to accelerate a $16 million programme to replace 22 shallow bores, supplying 80,000 northwest households.

The work was originally due to be finished by June 30, 2018, but most of the wells would now be decommissioned by March 2017. Fourteen of the most vulnerable shallow wells have already either been decommissioned or shut down.

Accelerating the work would cost an additional $480,000.

The council would also embark on a programme to raise community awareness of the risks of drinking untreated water from the shallow bores.

Canterbury’s medical officer of health, Alistair Humphrey, last month asked the council to explain why its continued use of the shallow wells did not present “an untenable risk”. Humphrey’s request was prompted by a gastro outbreak caused by campylobacter in the water supplying the town of Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay.

Staff will now talk to Humphrey to see if he was satisfied with the council’s response, without chlorinating the water. They will report back to the council in November.

Water from the bores was tested for E.coli daily, but it took at least 24 hours to get the results, so there was always a 24-hour period where contamination could go undetected, council three waters and waste boss John Mackie said.

He said the council complied with the water standards, but his professional advice to the council was to chlorinate the water, which would eliminate the risk.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel asked Mackie if the risk from the shallow bores had changed in the last few years. He said no.

She said it was only the perception of risk that had been heightened since the Havelock North contamination.

 

Inquiry into NZ water contamination under way

An independent inquiry into the contamination of Havelock North’s water supply will begin its work this week, the Government has announced, as a woman sickened with Campylobacter was diagnosed with symptoms confirmed as Guillain-Barre syndrome.

wellington-waterAttorney-General Chris Finlayson has also revealed the members of the inquiry, who have to report back with their findings by March next year.

Last month, the Government announced an inquiry into the Havelock North campylobacter outbreak, which has affected thousands of residents and been linked to the deaths of two elderly people.

Finlayson said the inquiry would be chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge Lyn Stevens QC.

“The members of the inquiry panel have the extensive legal, public health, local government and water management expertise required to conduct an inquiry of this nature,” Finlayson said.

The inquiry would start this week, but had until March 31 next year to report back.

It would focus on how the Havelock North water supply became contaminated and how it was dealt with, how local and central government agencies responded to the public health outbreak, and how to reduce the risk of a similar outbreak happening in future.

The latest outbreak made 5200 people sick and hospitalised 22. Two elderly women who died were found to have contracted campylobacter, but both had other health issues.

An investigation is under way to find how the bug made its way into the water. Evidence to date indicates it came from sheep or cattle and may have originated from near the bores.

So how is Wellington’s water made safe: chlorinated, fluoridated, then delivered to your glass.

Rachel Thomas of The Dominion reports that Kaitoke and Wainuiomata are home to Wellington’s two river-based water sources.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw says the catchments of both the river sources in Kaitoke and Wainuiomata are in protected forest parks where there is virtually no human activity. 

“There’s no agriculture up there and very little intrusions with the water. It’s pure water we get from the hills.”

That said, all water sourced from rivers is at permanent risk of contamination from faecal or other organic matter.

That is why it is chlorinated, says Lower Hutt Deputy Mayor David Bassett, who is also chairman of Wellington Water’s governance committee.

“It’s better to err on the side of caution, and we are very risk averse when it comes to Wellington’s river water supply.”

Most of the residents in Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua and Wellington get either chlorinated river water, or a mix of chlorinated river water and aquifer water.

The region’s confined aquifer can be found at Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt. It is the only source of unchlorinated, unfluoridated water in the region, and supplies drinking water to more than 70,000 Hutt City residents.

Water from the aquifer is free of bacteria and other contaminants, Bassett says.

That is because it is at least a year old and goes through a natural filtration process as it makes its way through the aquifer layers.

“It doesn’t need to be chlorinated, and so long as the network [of pipes] is secure, it is safe to drink at the tap – and we test the water throughout the network to make sure that it remains safe.”

Over the past year, there have been four positive E.coli tests at reservoirs in the unchlorinated network, Bassett says.

When that happens, Wellington Water notifies regional health authorities, shuts off the system, chlorinates the relevant reservoir, and re-tests the water until it is all-clear. 

5200 sickened with campy: Havelock North’s water supply has been given the all clear

Havelock North’s water supply no longer needs to be boiled, its council has announced nearly three weeks after first discovering a contamination.

Havelock North, New ZealandAbout 5200 people – a third of the New Zealand town’s population – have been affected since a campylobacter contamination was found in its water supply last month.

Since August 12, residents have been asked to boil drinking water, but on Saturday the Hastings District Council said tests had revealed the water was again safe to drink straight form the tap.

“The third clear [daily] water test in a row came back today, allowing the boil water notice to be lifted,” chief executive Ross McLeod said.

The water in the area will continue to be chlorinated for at least three months.

The government has launched an independent inquiry into the contamination.

The cost of the outbreak is going to cost ratepayers more than $700,000.

The Hastings District Council’s Finance Committee is expected to sign off on the expenditure at its meeting tomorrow.

The money is needed to cover the remission of water rates for each household in Havelock North, which is costing the council $300,000 in total.

It will also be used to fund the $110,000 recovery package for struggling businesses.

An extra $300,000 will also be put aside for additional costs arising from the water contamination, including extra water testing, engineering and technical investigations, water supply planning and enquiry costs.

Who steals mussels? People in NZ

MPI Fisheries-Northland reports on facebook that yesterday a member of the public reported a group taking too many mussels from the Whangarei Heads area.

mussel.theftFishery Officers responded to the call and met the men as they came ashore with their vessel. The group had a total of 2,683 mussels between three of them.

The trio were directed to our Whangarei office for the purpose of a formal interview, however the men had other ideas. They decided to take a detour and not go to the office as directed, they will now face not only serious Fisheries Act charges for the shellfish but also for obstructing Fishery Officers.

Blatant offending of this nature will not be tolerated, the men could face charges of up to $250,000 as well as forfeiture of their vehicle, vessel and trailer (all of which was confiscated at the time).

Reminder: the daily limit for green lipped mussels in the Northland area is 50 per gatherer.

And I’ve gone with this version of the video because the lyrics are so beautiful.

 

Campy hits over 5000 in NZ

Chlorine works.

The number of people sickened by the contaminated Havelock North water supply has risen to 5198, the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (DHB) says.

six-hawkes-bay-school-affected-by-nasty-gastro-bug.png.hashed.0a693c79.desktop.story.inlineThat’s more than a third of the town’s 14,000 population.

At least 500 cases of those cases have been confirmed as due to campylobacter.

The DHB said there were no patients currently in hospital with a campylobacter infection.

A spokesperson said a medical officer of health and infectious diseases expert would present further data, and talk about people’s health concerns, at a public meeting in Havelock North tonight.

Meanwhile a Hawke’s Bay residents group is calling for a freeze on all regional council decisions affecting aquifer and river water quality, until the government’s inquiry into the water disaster has reported back.

4,700 sick: Second death linked to NZ campy outbreak

A second death has been linked to the Campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North, NZ.

jean.sparksman.cryptoThe Hawke’s Bay District Health Board states the woman in her nineties was admitted to Hawke’s Bay Hospital during the contamination crisis, which has affected more than 4,700 people.

The DHB say while the woman had campylobacter, she died from an unrelated medical condition yesterday evening.

This comes as the coroner investigates the death of 89 year old Jean Sparksman (right) who died on August 13th while also suffering campylobacter.

The coroner won’t be holding a formal investigation into the recent death of the woman in her nineties, as there is not direct link to the gastro bug.

NZ dad isn’t fazed at all by the outrage at his daughter’s first deer kill

John Edens of Stuff reports a proud father says he isn’t worried by critics upset at photographs of his eight-year-old daughter taking a bite out of a deer’s heart after her first successful hunt.

kid.deer.heart.2Johnny Yuile and his daughter went hunting on a friend’s bush block the Hawke’s Bay, earlier this month.

Yuile – a New Zealand police constable – said he has been hunting with his daughter since she was a toddler and when she was little he’d strap her to a front-pack during bush missions.

His daughter, using her dad’s Remington 7mm-08 rifle, shot a young stag from 40 metres.

He sent a couple of photographs online to a Facebook page, showing a smiling father and daughter beside the stag and his daughter taking a bite from the deer’s heart. For many people, tasting a freshly killed animal, whether it’s by taking a bite or drinking blood, is part of hunting.

Yuile said he hunts for meat for his family.

“She made tricky downhill shot using my shoulder as a leaning rest and shot with dads 7 mm-08 at about 40m. Then she took a bite from its warm quivering heart,” a Facebook post said.

The Facebook page quickly attracted “haters” who criticised Yuile for taking his daughter hunting at such a young age, branded the hunt “sadistic” and wrongly accused the pair of killing an animal for sport.

Yuile said the pair were hunting at a friend’s place.

Chlorine is good: 4100 sick from NZ water, mayor says chlorination ‘will get a bloody good fight from us’

While his neighbours still suffer from the country’s worst case of mass water contamination, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton says his city will fight to keep chlorine out of its town supply.

bill.daltonLower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace is also rejecting calls for all town water supplies to be chlorinated in the wake of the Havelock North contamination crisis.

About 74,000 Lower Hutt residents from Pomare to Petone drink chlorine-free water sourced from the Waiwhetu aquifer. The rest of greater Wellington’s supply is chlorinated.

In Hawke’s Bay, Napier, Hastings and Havelock North’s town supplies have been chlorine-free but the chemical was added to Havelock North water to treat a campylobacter contamination on August 12, and to the Hastings supply as a precaution last week.

Water treatment engineer Iain Rabbitts said chlorination should be made mandatory to avoid a repeat of the Havelock North crisis, adding, “We knew this was going to happen at some point in one of the unchlorinated supplies in New Zealand and we all hoped it wouldn’t be too bad.”

But Dalton said Napier would resist a move to mandatory chlorination “incredibly strongly because one of the points of difference of Napier is our wonderfully pure, unadulterated water supply”.

He did not want the city serving up the type of chlorine-tainted water other cities, such as Auckland, had to endure, he said.

dumbass“The first thing we do when we’re heading north is we pick up heaps of bottles of water because we don’t drink the water up in Auckland because it bloody stinks.

“If the Government turns around and tries to play the heavy hand, then they’ll get a bloody good fight from us.”

The only thing bloody about this scenario are the asses of the sick from constant pooping.

Marty Sharpe of Stuff also writes it now appears all but certain that a routine test of the Havelock North water supply showed it was clear of E.coli when it cannot have been.

The same test procedure is used by councils around the country, and its apparent failure in Havelock North may result in a reappraisal of whether current testing standards are robust enough.

Those questions are likely to form part of the government inquiry into the outbreak, announced on Monday.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee said on Monday that a survey of the 4500 residents affected by the campylobacter outbreak revealed they were most probably first exposed to the bug through their drinking water about Saturday, August 6, and that their symptoms first started showing on Monday, August 8.

But a routine test by Hastings District Council of the water supply on Tuesday, August 9, came back clear, showing no sign of E.coli. The test takes 24 hours, so the results came on Wednesday.

If they had shown positive at that point, the water system would have been chlorinated immediately.

The next routine test, on Thursday, August 11, came back on Friday as positive for E.coli. By that stage it was clear from DHB records that there was widespread illness in the area, and the decision was made to chlorinate.

E.coli, a common gut bacterium in warm-blooded animals, is used as an indicator of the contamination of water by excrement. It indicates there may be other pathogenic bacteria such as campylobacter.

Public Health Services drinking water assessor Peter Wood, who is in Hawke’s Bay working on the outbreak, said there could be situations of “sheer dumb luck” when E.coli was present in the water but not detected.

Over 4000 sick from Campylobacter in NZ water

With over 4,000 now sick from drinking water contaminated with Campylobacter in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said today charges could be laid.

Hawke's BayAccording to Nicholas Jones of the NZ Herald, Key is backing the Hastings District Council, saying it acted as quickly as it could. But he told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking there could be court action, as it’s not clear whether the contamination contributed to the death of a woman in a rest home.

He says that court action could involve civil or criminal charges.

The Ministry of Education says all Havelock North’s schools and early childhood centres are expected to be open today.

After the rolls are taken at Havelock North Intermediate this morning the students will be gathered for an assembly.

“We’ll just talk through hygiene basically. Over the next little while we’ll have the Red Cross in during the day at points. We’ll be talking about using the hand sanitisers and washing hands properly when using the loo,” said Principal Julia Beaumont.

At the weekend, the Hawke’s Bay DHB said interim results from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research suggests contamination from cattle and other four-legged farm animals may have been in the water.

Dr Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor, an extreme event expert at Auckland University, criticised the official reaction to the outbreak, saying she was “staggered” at how quickly the disaster snowballed out of control.

“Better planning could have minimised unintended consequences and downstream effects that make the disaster worse. The fact that contaminated water was brought into Havelock North in a tanker is staggering.”