Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Water born sickness in NZ?

Our water in NZ is not perfect. My article highlights the issues with significant number of New Zealander's water supply. However it is a basic assumption that (a) water will come out of the tap when I turn it on and (b) that this water will not make me sick in the short term eg no contagious organisms.

(Should point out these assumptions only work for town supply, after living on bore water for 7 years amazed at how many times we lost water supply)

Well both of these assumptions have come under fire this week. Firstly Tiffany was in at the council desk, and heard a customer service rep talking to a very irate rate payer. The water coming out of the rate payer's tap was all turbid and brown colored. The rate payer was clearly ranting about how it was unacceptable to have this yucky water coming out of the tap. The poor council lady tried to explain that there had been a broken water pipe/main in the area, so the council had dug a hole and fixed it. Now the mud and/or rust had come loose or made its way into the pipe. And that running the water would clear this out. The rate payer was not satisfied by this, and it would appear that he/she was grumpy waiting to happen, and the poor council lady was bearing the brunt of a cat kicking day.

It did make me realize that without council doing all these repairs and maintenance I wouldn't have good water coming out of my tap. I am very grateful that they do this work.

The very next day on Tuesday 30th June Waikato District Council posted online a press release (fill copy at end of this post) stating that there we some issues with water supply in Huntly and that people should boil their water. Fortunately we live in a small town. A guy from the church Tiffany goes to got some prescriptions from the pharmacist. The pharmacy had a notice up about this issue. So when he got home he emailed out to all the people in Huntly about this issue.

This media release stated that there had been problems since Saturday 29th of June to Tuesday 1st July there had been a problem at the water purification plant. Quick readers will figure out that there has been a stuff up with the date as the 29th of June was a Monday, and that Tuesday was 30th June, not 1st July. This aside it also stated that illness symptoms could start in 4 day to 2 weeks. And that if have diarrhoea/vomiting you should be checked for pathogens in water.

Interestingly enough the original post is gone, and has been replaced with a shorter one that stated they had been working hard on the issue and that water should be boiled for the next three days. It had no information about the date(s) involved, nor about seeing a doctor. A very watered down replacement. Makes me suspicious when something like this happens. But the web has a memory and the original post I have uncovered and posted at the end of this post.

On the next day Wednesday 1st July, a post stated that the source of the problem as a leaky valve and that as a precaution people should boil water till further notice. However they were flushing the system to purge any contaminated water.

Fortunately we have a water filter that takes all the bugs out. So we made extra care that we have only be using filtered water. Not big deal, just that our youngest normally get her drinks from a handbasin as the kitchen tap/filter is to hard for her to reach.

However a friend is not been so fortunate. She has a baby who is about 6 months old (I think, typical guy that I am I don't know exactly how old baby is). Just got a text asking for us to look after the older child so that friend and baby can go into hospital. Hopefully it is not an illness caused by the water (Giardia or Cryptosporidium). And hopefully they will be home safe and sound soon. Without some cultures from either stomach or bowel it will be impossible to know if is caused by the water. Or it could be caused by the water taxing the babies natural defences so it is more susceptible to other infections.

Either way we will be praying for a quick return of baby to full health.

Since the original post has been taken off line, (although it is currently cached by google) here is the text of the original posting:

Some inadequately treated water released in Huntly

A technical glitch at the water treatment plant in Huntly has meant the possibility of a small amount of inadequately treated water being released into the Huntly water system.

Waikato District Council Plants Engineer, Hudson Cameron, said the problem occurred between Saturday 29th Jun and Tuesday 1 July when water of lower than normal quality was intermittently produced at the Huntly Water treatment Plant on Jackson Road, Huntly.

“Testing of the water in the reticulation system has not detected any presence of E. coli (note : E. Coli is the standard indicator organism for faecal contamination of drinking water) and further testing is underway for the presence of Giardia or Cryptosporidium protozoa.

At this stage we cannot discount the low risk that the drinking water may have been compromised and we urge anyone who has a gastrointestinal/stomach upsets illness to seek medical attention.

The symptoms associated with the infection can take between two days and four weeks to become apparent. Those more at risk of infection include the elderly, children and those with lowered immune systems.

“We encourage anyone with gastrointestinal/stomach upsets to consult their doctor promptly,” he said.

The matter has been addressed and water is now being treated as normal. Council is not aware of any concerns or complaints having been raised by residents about this issue.

Council apologies to the public for any inconvenience caused by this problem.

For more information please contact

Jo Ireland
Communications Manager

Waikato District Council
07 824 8633

Update. Mum and baby back home. Baby was rehydrated at 24 hour clinic in Hamilton. She visited local doctor before being sent to Hamilton. The nurse stated that they had been suddenly swamped with kids/people who had Norovirus this week. Is might just be coincidence but the NZSA states the following:
Initially someone may become infected with a Norovirus after eating food that’s been exposed to sewage in some way
Like I say a coincidence that big spike in a potentially water born illness when water treatment plant had a problem. I will let you draw your own conclusion.

Update 2. Was in town on Sunday - noticed a flier half under a community organizations door. Being inquisitive I pulled it out. It stated that the water had been tested negative for bugs and that it should be safe to drink. This is good news, however lack of communication is concerning.

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