City's water source clearer than expected after fire

Dunedin's main water source could be back in action sooner than initially thought, following a massive fire near Middlemarch earlier this month.

The blaze burned across 5000ha of land, including the Deep Stream catchment, which usually provides 80% of the city's water supply.

The catchment was believed to be contaminated with firefighting foam and ash, but testing showed that was unlikely.

The Dunedin City Council revealed it had spent $60,000 on the incident so far.

Council network, catchment and maintenance manager Mike Perkins said samples from the Deep Stream catchment showed fire suppressant chemicals in the water were below detectable limits.

There was no official timeline for when the catchment would be available for use again, but the council was working with Ministry of Health and specialist consultants to develop a plan to safely start using the water, Mr Perkins said.

''In the meantime, we are taking a cautionary approach and continue to take daily samples.''

Initially, it was thought the catchment would be out of action for three to 12 months.

Council 3 Waters group manager Tom Dyer said given the lack of contamination, it was likely to be at the lower end of that timeframe.

The major issue now would be taste and odour problems as a result of the fire itself, he said.

''It could be pretty unpleasant.''

Dunedin residents had heeded the council's call to voluntarily restrict water.

Demand had been averaging 38,000cu m per day, well below the usual average of 44,000cu m for this time of year.

''If it continues, we will not need to look at any formal restrictions while the catchment recovers.''

The $60,000 the council had spent so far covered testing, extra pumping, and other incidentals. The money would come from existing operational budgets.

The council was in discussions with its insurance advisers about possible options.

Following the fire, the council also stopped taking water from the Deep Creek catchment as a precaution, but aerial photos later confirmed it was not contaminated.

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

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