Claims natural discolouration triggered boil notice

A sample of Tapanui water. PHOTO: ODT FILES
A sample of Tapanui water. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Officials believe a town’s naturally amber-hued drinking water may be triggering overbearing compliance costs.

Members of the West Otago Community Board made the observation during the board’s meeting in Tapanui on Wednesday, during a discussion about a boil water notice that was issued for the town on June 16.

The town sources its drinking water from the aptly named Whisky Gully, whose water is shaded orange-brown from naturally occurring tannins.

Following heavy rainfall recently, the turbidity of the water triggered non-compliance with stringent government regulations, leading to the notice being issued.

Board member and Clutha District West Otago ward councillor Michele Kennedy said, to her knowledge, the town’s water had never harmed anyone.

"No-one ever died from Whisky Gully water, but regulations stipulate treatment now. Turbidity is just the colour of the water."

Fellow Cr John Herbert agreed.

"We’re constantly chasing regulations that are costing us money, and our community are looking to us for answers. We need to let them know the reasons behind the situation", he said.

Council head of three waters department Linda Till said the turbidity remained at the time of the meeting.

It was "not an E.coli issue", she said, but the turbidity affected the treatment plant’s protozoa screen performance.

For that reason, it was important to boil water before consuming, she said.

Longer-term, a UV treatment unit would be effective in addressing issues triggered by turbidity, and this would be investigated.

Board members said some community members had asked if boil-water alerts could be delivered more rapidly, to ensure safety.

Ms Till said the council was investigating the use of the emergency text alert system to deliver messages to a specific area instantly.

On this occasion, council staff had door-knocked Tapanui residents on June 16 to bring the notice to their attention, she said.

Residents can obtain fresh water from a tanker at the Bushyhill St Playground.