Raetihi water contamination may last up to a year

By Merania Karauria -
Boom across the Makotuku Stream at Horopito.
Boom across the Makotuku Stream at Horopito.

The Makotuku Stream that Raetihi township gets its water from is likely to be contaminated for the next three months and perhaps up to a year.

That was the message Ruapehu District Council chief executive Peter Till gave 150 people at a public meeting in the town last night.

Mr Till said most of the diesel that spilled into the stream more than a week ago is still in the main water line, which needs to be cleaned and tomorrow the first lot of water will flow through.

The cleaning will continue for more than a week, but any water that flows will not be safe to use, and parents were asked at the meeting to ensure their children did not use the water.

However, just how much diesel is sitting in the line is unknown.

Surface oil has been removed from the Raetihi reservoir and it has been drained.

The toxic waste has been placed nearby and will be removed to a lined landfill for hazardous waste.

Meanwhile, the council is looking to take water from the Makara Stream, and long-term it will look at a gravity-fed system from the Horopito area for the township.

But because of previous sawmilling close to the Makara, the council would do extensive testing for harmful compounds, including 1080, Mr Till said.

He said the council was working with a number of organisations, but health was paramount.

The rain that started falling yesterday will help to flush the stream of diesel leaked into the Makotuku from a diesel tank owned by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) on Mt Ruapehu.

RAL chief executive David Mazey attended the meeting and once again offered apologised to the community.

He said the leak was probably over a 5-6 hour period, and when it was discovered on the morning of September 28, the tank was turned off.

RAL did not report the leak until the following Wednesday.

Local woman Lesley Edmonds asked Mr Mazey if RAL had acquired the necessary consents, and had he spoken to iwi in the area.

Mr Mazey said the double-skinned tank was installed in 2007 and RAL had applied for all the consents and hazard certificates.

He was unsure which iwi had been notified because of the date it was installed.

He agreed systems would be reviewed.

Another local said he had heard Deputy Mayor Don Cameron say in a radio interview that businesses would be compensated, and he wanted to know what compensation would be available to the community.

Mr Till said that was difficult to answer on the hoof, but the council was already in discussion with its insurers, as was RAL.

He said those who were insured would need to speak to their insurers first, and those who weren't could see the council, and it would collate the information.

Mr Mazey said RAL had liability cover and those uninsured could go through its loss adjuster and through council.

Until there is a regular, safe supply of drinking water to Raetihi homes, water tankers will continue to supply the township.

The school will reopen on Monday after the holidays and is being provided with water from Ohakune.

Mr Till reassured a schoolgirl the swimming pool would be open for the summer.

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