Hawea chlorine decision disappoints

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A decision by the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) to┬áchlorinate the Lake Hawea water supply has been labelled ”draconian and an insult to the community” by residents and
community organisations.
A statement from chief executive Mike Theelan’s office on Monday said the council had decided to chlorinate three small
community water supplies in the district this summer.
It was also investigating the possibility of permanently treating all residential supplies next year.
The decision was made”on the back” of water contaminations that occurred in Havelock North earlier this year and advice from Public HealthSouth, the statement said.
Treatment of supplies in Hawea, Arrowtown and Glendhu Bay would begin next week following the installation of chlorination delivery systems and would continue until March 17, as they had all previously been contaminated during peak summer demand.
Longtime Lake Hawea resident Jude Battson said she was appalled at the notification from the council.
”It flies in the face of democracy, is draconian and an insult of the highest order to our community,” Ms Battson, chairwoman of the Guardians of Lake Hawea and a former districtcouncillor, said.
It was especially concerning given the new ”state of the art” water scheme installed at Scott’s Beach this year.
The scheme was installed with an ultraviolet treatment system designed to deliver ”what was required”.
”It delivers water filtered from 40m down in our lake – that means squeaky clean water with a fresh taste that we in
our community pride ourselves on, and have done
since 1987, when it was first decided to go with UV treatment rather than chlorination.
”At a well-attended public meeting held in Lake Hawea in January there was just one person who voted in favour of
chlorination,” she said.
”It is extremely disappointing elected representatives have agreed to this, given the history of our non-chlorinated scheme and that the community is against poison in our water.”
Hawea Community Association chairman Paul Cunningham saidthere would be ”a lot of disappointed people” in the village.
The association had not yet met to discuss the issue but it would be on the agenda for this month’s meeting, he said
on Monday. ”In my opinion, they have given us no choice; they are clearly not listening to this community that repeatedly says it does not want the water supply chlorinated.”
Mr Theelan said while a decision was yet to be made about permanent chlorination of all the district’s supplies, it was
something the council was ”looking at closely”.
”Ultimately, we have a responsibility to provide safe drinking water and we are obligated to learn from the Havelock experience,” he said.
”An event of that magnitude in the Queenstown Lakes district would be very damaging on a local level, both in terms of the
effects to residents but also seriously damaging to the region’s tourism sector.
”It would be irresponsible of the council not to consider the potential of permanent chlorination of all our water supplies.”
However, Ms Battson said by using Havelock North, where more than 5000 people became sick with waterborne illness,
the Government and the council was failing her community, as the situation in both towns was completely different.
”In this instance, it is not comparing apples with apples,” she said.
Responding to questions from The News, QLDC chief engineer
Ulrich Glasner said councillors had ”unanimously supported” advice from staff that temporary chlorination should be carriedout ”as a precaution”.
The decision followed a request from the Medical Officer of Health for water safety plans to be reviewed.
”Any decision to chlorinate the Hawea supply permanently would be subject to full community consultation,” he said.
If the Scotts Beach borefield could not produce sufficient water during the summer peak demand, some of the Hawea supply would come from the lake intake, with an associated risk of contamination.
”Also, the UV treatment does not guard against contaminants that enter the water distribution system, such as pipes and pumps, once the water leaves the reservoir.
”Chlorine acts in the same way as a seatbelt – it protects those drinking from the supply fromunexpected contamination.”
Mr Glasner said the council had not decided whether it would use DNA testing to ascertain the source of any E. coli
contamination.

  • All Central Otago town water supplies are chlorinated, as are the Wanaka and Queenstown supplies.