Pahiatua's boil water notice remains despite negative test

By Christine McKay -
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Volunteers from the Rapid Relief Team, a church-based group, handed out free water on Saturday afternoon in Pahiatua.
Volunteers from the Rapid Relief Team, a church-based group, handed out free water on Saturday afternoon in Pahiatua.

Despite two negative E.coli tests from the source of Pahiatua's water yesterday afternoon, residents still need to boil their water.

"Although this clear test result is great, this is not the time to be complacent," Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis said.

Council's manager for district strategy and development Peter Wimsett said the first all-clear was excellent news after the second positive test last Friday at the Pahiatua bore meant the boil water notice was put in place immediately.

"At no time have we had problems with the town's reticulation (pipe) system. Tests have been carried out around Pahiatua on water in the pipes, so as well as the good news of the first clear result from the bore, this testing at multiple sites around the town shows all the water was being chlorinated," Mr Wimsett said.

Yesterday afternoon, the council received a second set of test results taken from the bore, which showed a clear reading. However, the boil water notice could not be lifted until there had been another two consecutive days of clear tests.

Yesterday's first clear test result was welcome news for Alison Franklin, co-owner of the Black Stump Cafe and Bar and Harrows Restaurant in Pahiatua.

"We've been trying to stay positive and we've been getting through, but it's frustrating," she said.

"On Saturday they [council] flushed all the lines in Pahiatua and it stuffed our coffee machine, but there's been so much hysteria around town because of what happened in Havelock North, it's important to put our situation into context. We had a couple from Hastings call in for coffee yesterday morning and we weren't able to oblige, but they understood obviously."

Mr Ellis confirmed there was "a bit of rustiness in the Pahiatua water," following the flushing of the reticulated system.

And there have been lessons learned from the Havelock North water crisis, he said.

"Council staff were on the ground quickly last Friday and our utilities manager Dave Watson, myself and the team walked the town, knocking on doors and leaving leaflets in letterboxes," he said.

"As I walked around Pahiatua again on Saturday, people were telling me they were glad we'd acted so quickly. I think being a rural community we tend to react a bit quicker than in a large urban area and I know from my military experience, you have to get on to things quickly. Our council team did extremely well to get the boil water message out, but with no Pahiatua community radio, it's been very, very hard."

At this stage, Mr Ellis said he had no idea what had caused the problem at the bore.
"There's no way I'm going to speculate," he said.

On Saturday, the Wooden Spoon in Pahiatua wasn't open, but both the bakery and the Black Stump were.

"But we all closed early because no one was around," Mrs Franklin said.

"There has been a wonderful community spirit though. On Saturday a church group set up a stall handing out free bottles of water and then arrived here with two boxes of water for us."

Volunteers from the Rapid Relief Team, a church-based group, handed out free water on Saturday afternoon and Pahiatua residents were also full of praise for Jason and Rachel Griggs, owners of the New World supermarket, who were selling water at cost.

Mrs Franklin said although the restaurant had a couple of out-of-town bookings cancelled for Sunday, there were still good bookings for the Father's Day lunch and dinner service.


However, she said she was disappointed the Tararua District Council did not act on a 2008 report to chlorinate the Pahiatua water.
"I've looked back and seen the report in the minutes of meetings then and with the economic downturn, this water crisis has been something we didn't need," she said.

"I do realise the council has to err on the side of caution, but the contamination is at the bore source, not in our pipes and no one is ill that I know of."

Mr Ellis told the Dannevirke News he had checked with Waireka rest home in Pahiatua and the town's medical centre on Saturday and there had been no reports of illness.

"Waireka was supplied with fresh water from the New World supermarket," he said.

This is the second time this year E.coli has been detected in a council water source. In early March, Pongaroa residents were issued with a boil water notice, after their urban and rural supply failed an E.coli test. The notice was lifted two weeks later.

Mr Wimsett said at the time the problem had been caused after the supply's chlorinator failed.

Council has secured funding from the Ministry of Health for up to $393,000 for the upgrade of Pongaroa's water supply, with an estimated cost of $150,000.

Pahiatua water has been chlorinated since Friday afternoon.

Pahiatua boil-water notice:

• Residents need to continue to boil their water until notified otherwise.
• Any water intended for consumption must be boiled vigorously for at least one minute. It is possible to use a jug which switches off automatically. However, you must ensure the jug is full and, once it has completed its boil, cool slightly and then re-boil before use.
• The council-supplied water tanker will remain in Pahiatua until the boil-water notice is lifted.
• For updates, visit the Tararua District Council website: tararuadc.govt.nz
or Facebook page: facebook.com/tararuadc.

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