Chlorination decision ire

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The Luggate Community Association normally has a good relationship with the council and likes to keep up good relations “but this one’s left a bit of a sour taste”, association chairman Graeme Perkins says.

The Luggate community has been left reeling after the Queenstown Lakes District Council last week announced temporary water chlorination would be introduced over summer.

Residents were informed about potential chlorination earlier this year, which was swiftly followed by resistance from the community and a petition that was delivered to the council.

Mr Perkins said the lack of consultation by the QLDC was as much of an issue as the chlorination itself.

“There wasn’t a serious consultation process.

“We ended up feeling they were just paying lip service to us and they were wanting to be seen to be consulting with the community on what we wanted.

“Even though they know what the community wants, here they seem to be going ahead with their agenda, anyway.”

The community understood the council was liable for any problems with the water but it was an issue that needed to be discussed, he said.

“The vast majority of the people in this town are quite happy with the quality of the water.

“It’s just one of those sticky little issues that gets people up in arms – and quite rightly so.”

Mr Perkins was overseas when the announcement was made, but the association’s deputy chairman Rod Anderson was not contacted by the council and only found out about the decision through local media.

Mr Anderson said he was not aware of any poor water test results in the area.

“What annoys everybody is there was no consultation. They said they were going to come back and they never did.

“They obviously haven’t looked at any other possibilities.

“That was our big argument.

“We didn’t mind if it had to go in because there was a bad test, but not just to do it blanket and put it in in case something happened.”

The council should have called a meeting to inform the community, Mr Anderson said.

The fact that nearly everyone in the community signed a petition against chlorination was a clear indicator that the community felt strongly about the issue, he said.

His wife, Cec, started the petition in April and it quickly gathered 214 signatures from around the community.

People were coming up to her door to sign it, she said.

“There was no ifs and buts – people were lining up to sign it.”

She would be prepared to sign a waiver to continue using untreated water and she believed most of the community would consider paying additional rates for a solution that did not require chlorination, she said.

“I choose not to go to a public swimming pool because of the chemicals – but that’s my choice.

“To have it forced into my home for no reason .. it gets me more than a little upset.

Mrs Anderson was informed she could buy a water filter at a cost of at least $700.

“Why should we have to? To take out something you didn’t want in the first place.

“If we’d had a positive test I could understand them chlorinating.

“It all comes back to a knee-jerk reaction from Havelock North.”

The community was concerned once chlorination was introduced it would be there to stay, she said.

Temporary chlorination was introduced for Lake Hawea residents a year ago and has remained in place because high coliform counts were detected earlier this year.

Hawea Community Association chairman Paul Cunningham said the community remained “firmly opposed” to chlorination and people were “prepared to take the perceived risk”.

There were residents who took drums to the lake and used that for their drinking water instead, he said.

“Most of us drive past this glorious, pristine lake and yet we have to have our water chlorinated.”

In response to concerns from the Luggate Community Association about temporary water chlorination, the Queenstown Lakes District Council says chlorination adds a layer of protection.

QLDC communications adviser Jimmy Sygrove said water from the Luggate bore was independently tested twice a week with no concerning results.

“However, as we have seen most recently in Glenorchy, this can change quickly and chlorination adds a layer of protection to the supply.”

The worst-case scenario was a contamination event like Havelock North’s, where an estimated 5500 of the town’s 14,000 residents fell ill with campylobacteriosis, he said.

It was possible the outbreak contributed to three deaths and 45 people were admitted to hospital.

QLDC chief engineer Ulrich Glasner contacted the Luggate Community Association before the public announcement, which was then broadcast via social media, the council’s website and by a press release, he said.

Staff would compile a report for the council next year on how to protect drinking-water supplies, he said.

The council would investigate alternative ways to ensure the safety of drinking water.

“Council is aware of the depth of feeling with regards to drinking water across the district and will take this into account when making a decision on permanent chlorination early next year.”

Those wanting to remove all chlorine could buy a carbon filter that attached to the water supply where it entered their property, he said.

Luggate resident Lukey Parks said he moved to the town because his wife was allergic to chlorine. There were other people who moved there specifically because they did not want to be exposed to chlorinated water, he said.

“When we lived in Frankton she always had red, rashy skin from the chlorine.

“We literally bought property in Luggate and bought a house there because of the water.

“The whole town doesn’t want something – the whole village that resides there – and they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway.

“I’ve been told we live in a democracy and that sounds more like a dictatorship to me.”

Mr Parks owns an organic restaurant in Wanaka and said he used bottled Luggate water with certain dishes.

“I’m really upset and so is the whole town.”