Tensions reach boiling point over unsafe Methven drinking water

There's something in the water in Methven - and it ain't pretty.

Business owners in the small Canterbury town told RNZ's Checkpoint they have reached boiling point, after more than 10 years of contamination issues with the busy ski village's water supply.

And Ashburton District Council says a permanent fix is still up to 18 months away.

There were about 200 guests staying at Methven's Brinkley Resort last week.

Everyone seemed in good spirits when Checkpoint visited. Blue skies meant skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of Mt Hutt.

But not all is well. There is no fresh running water.

"You have an expectation when you turn the tap on that safe water's going to come out," general manager Paul Creswick said.

Creswick and his wife have the embarrassing job of telling their 200 guests the water is unsafe.

Instead, a 2000 litre council water tank has been set up for guests to make the freezing morning trek to brush their teeth and fill bottles.

Ashburton District Council's website reveals recent bad weather means sediment-laden flood water continues to infiltrate intake galleries.

But Creswick and his fellow Methven residents and business owners have had enough.

Boil water notices have become relatively common during his 14 years here, he said.

"It's obviously embarrassing.

"No one's really been too upset by it, but it is a major inconvenience ... not just for all the tourist operators in town - there's mums and dads with kids at home.

"It's very easy for children to forget to not touch the water... you can jump in the shower and forget about it."

Methven is growing as a ski resort and subdivisions are continuing to pop up around the town.

It is time the infrastructure caught up, Creswick said.

"I think the whole town's sort of had enough, in this day and age there is expectation you don't have to worry about what's coming out of the tap," he said.

"It's been going on for years, for a long time, and the community just wants to know when it's going to get fixed."

And it's not just Brinkley Resort - every business and household in town is affected.

Trev den Baars owns the Blue Pub, Brown Pub and the Backyard craft beer bar in Methven with wife, Deb.

Right now, just washing a tray of pints is a real chore.

"As soon as we get a text from the council - it can be 2 o'clock in the morning or 3am in the morning - I shoot back down here and I turn anything off that's got filters, so we don't contaminate anything within the system," he said.

All water used in his establishments must be manually carted using 20 litre buckets from a tank out the back of the Blue Pub.

"But that's a lot of work and a lot of 20L buckets," den Baars said.

"The younger guys hurt themselves this week, so it's been the old farts out there doing it, and it's tough going.

"It's just a really big drain on human resources and so forth when it's school holidays and they should be concentrating on actually serving and looking after the guests."

Ashburton District Council chief executive Hamish Riach was in Methven on Friday, heading a business meeting at Brinkley Resort.

He is promising a permanent solution to Methven's decades-long water woes.

"Council accepts that it's no longer acceptable to have the water supply that we've got in Methven," he said.

"It's a very reliable supply, but when it rains heavily it's subject to some sediment infiltration and the turbidity gets too high and then the treatment can't be guaranteed."

Over the last decade there have been nine boil water notices, Riach said.

As for a permanent fix, Riach assured locals it is coming, but not for another 12 to 18 months.

 

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