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Fox Glacier businesses were scrambling yesterday to make contingencies after a "boil water" notice was issued for the village.
Operators say the timing could not be worse as the region heads into the peak tourist season.
Businesses were forced at short notice to cart in uncontaminated water or buy in bulk bottled water for guests.
The Westland District Council said yesterday routine water quality sampling of the town supply had shown the presence of e.coli faecal coliform bacteria. "A boil water notice is now in place while we await confirmation from the laboratory. The preliminary result might be due to a poor sampling technique or there may be an issue somewhere in the reticulation," the council said.
The requirement to boil water used for drinking, brushing teeth and food preparation is in effect until further notice. Community Public Health has been notified as a precaution.
Gladys Bargallo, manager of the Heartland Hotel Glacier Country and adjacent Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier, both owned by Scenic Circle, said tap water from the group's unaffected hotels over the hills at Franz Josef Glacier was being tanked to the Fox Glacier hotels for use in the restaurant and kitchen.
They had also brought in bulk bottled water for the 100-plus guests that could be accommodated on any given night.
Ms Bargallo said it was already busy in the glacier town so the timing was not ideal.
Lake Matheson Cafe owner Chris Alexander said operators had no idea how long the notice might be in effect.
They had scrambled yesterday morning to put into effect contingencies. The timing was "terrible" heading into peak season.
Mr Alexander said they had to re-plumb the coffee machine, and staff were "flat out" boiling water to use in the cafe. The customer water supply had been shut up and notices had gone up in the toilets warning people not to drink the water.
"It's not a great look for the town heading into peak season. Our biggest concern is the impact this will have on the image of Glacier Country."
Mr Alexander said 250,000 people visited Lake Matheson each year and having 'contaminated water' signs around the place was the opposite of what they were trying to sell.
The council said the boil water notice could be lifted once sampling over three consecutive days showed an "absent" result.
In February, boil water notices were put in place following contamination of the Arahura and Kumara supplies. The Arahura notice was lifted soon after but Kumara's lasted about a month.
- Janna Sherman of the Hokitika Guardian