Community board tackles contaminated water crisis

Members of the Waikouaiti Coast Community Board and public listen as (from left) medical officer...
Members of the Waikouaiti Coast Community Board and public listen as (from left) medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack, Dunedin City Council infrastructure services general manager Simon Drew and 3 Waters group manager Tom Dyer answer questions about lead levels in the water during the recent board meeting.PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
As a small public gallery listened intently, Waikouaiti Coast Community Board members asked health and local authorities searching questions about water quality and health in its area.

The Dunedin City Council 3 Waters report on the discovery of elevated lead levels in Waikouaiti, Karitane, and Hawksbury Village, the "do not drink" notice issued on February 2, the subsequent actions taken, and the ongoing response were discussed in-depth at last week’s board meeting.

Southern DHB medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack, council infrastructure services general manager Simon Drew and 3 Waters group manager Tom Dyer attended the meeting to answer the board’s questions.

Dr Jack told the board that anyone whose blood tests had shown elevated lead levels had been contacted and youngsters would be seen by a paediatrician.

Mr Dyer said the cause of the delay in picking up the elevated results had been "heavily traversed" and actions taken to ensure it did not happen again.

Ensuring the safety of Dunedin’s water supply was a top priority, he said.

In response to board members’ concerns that they were not informed early enough and were fielding calls from the public without enough information, Mr Dyer said the situation had moved very quickly, and the public were notified in three hours, once the situation was realised.

However, board members felt they could have played a role, especially given the depth of local knowledge around the table.

Questions on the potential to upgrade the water system in Waikouaiti were answered in the affirmative by Mr Dyer, who said 3 Waters was working through an upgrade of the water plant.

Pipes in Karitane had been replaced in the 1990s and plans were under way to replace the "significant length" of water main between the treatment plant and Karitane this year, he said.

The local reservoir had been drained of 3400 cubic metres of water and inspected. Sediment was to be cleared out and taken to landfill.

Asked for a timeline on an upgrade of pipes in Edinburgh St, Mr Dyer estimated six to eight months, as it had been difficult to secure the right type of pipes in sufficient lengths.

The community would be asked for its opinion on what to do in the long-term in relation to upgrading the water system in the area, and would be provided with options.

In answer to Cr Jim O’Malley’s cautious speculation that the spike in lead may have been a false positive, Mr Dyer said the original sample had been destroyed and could not be re-tested.

Therefore it must be treated as a positive result and handled accordingly.

In response to board chairman Alasdair Morrison’s question on a time-frame for when residents may "see the dawn breaking" on the water issue, Mr Dyer said weeks was possible, but months was more likely.

After thanking the officials for their attendance, board members paid tribute to Waikouaiti representative Sonya Billyard for her efforts during the crisis, with a bunch of flowers.

In other business, the community board heard funding applications from Waitati School, the Waitati Valley Road Group, and Waikouaiti Rodeo Association.

The board granted $500 to the school towards kiln installation, declined the application for road gravel for Waitati Valley Rd, and held over the rodeo application, seeking more detail.

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