Councillor Claire Hague says council staff deserve to be treated with more respect

So do the people who take the time to make submissions to council, especially on important issues affecting our communities such as chlorinated water.

Seven years ago Guardians of the Aquifer made submissions to Napier City Council to protect our drinking water from potential contamination by fracking oil and gas drilling in our water catchment.

For the past two years we have made the case for chlorine-free water for Napier city. In 2018 Hague was one of several councillors interested in finding out more about how the Netherlands provides safe drinking water without using chlorine.

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We were allowed 10 minutes at the submission hearings to outline why we thought NCC would benefit from investigating the Dutch example.

Near the end of speaking time Hague commended us for our comprehensive submission and our work on behalf of the community, and she asked for clarification of technical details which would have enabled councillors to draw a comparison between Napier's water supply and the Netherlands' supply from groundwater sources.

But time had run out. So Mayor Bill Dalton accepted the offer of a follow-up meeting with Guardians of the Aquifer to do justice to the issue.

However, at the start of the follow-up meeting in August the mayor suddenly halved the time allocated because "we're running late and it's the end of the day".

The shortened meeting was carefully managed by the CEO with another person proffering technical objections to the Dutch system. This other person was never introduced but turned out to be Jon Kingsford who is in charge of the council's water department.

The whole process showed disrespect for Guardians of the Aquifer and for interested councillors.

Councillors never got the opportunity to ask questions and never heard the clarification which Hague had sought at the submissions hearings back in June. It was clear that the mayor and CEO were not interested in the Dutch system.

That's when Guardians of the Aquifer decided to start the Petition for Chlorine Free Water for Napier which is open for signatures until October 12. The petition will be presented to the new council after the elections.

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This year our submission included a copy of the Christchurch report "Non-Chlorination Case Studies" July 2018. Christchurch has already started safely removing the chlorine from its municipal supply. Napier could do the same.

Since our 2018 submission two councillors started asking questions and on June 4, 2019 Annette Brosnan and Kirsten Wise got unanimous support for council to get on and investigate what Christchurch City Council is doing. The question of permanently chlorinating Napier's water has never been debated by councillors. That decision was made by the CEO and the council has been operating under temporary chlorination since May 2017.

As Brosnan says "our time has come to push back and make the decision for ourselves".

Napier should never have been chlorinated. There was no proof of any contamination: in May 2017 the current council started chlorinating Napier's water even though council staff have admitted (via the Official Information Act) that the two overly-sensitive E. coli test results which triggered chlorination were "on the edge of detection".

The council's Water Safety Plan claims that an E. coli test at Park Island indicated it needed to chlorinate "permanently" but the fact is that a second test was negative - the first test was "on the edge of detection".

It appears that councillors have been misled.

There is no law requiring NCC to chlorinate the water supply.

The council's seven operational bores have been thoroughly serviced and secure bore status reinstated last year, making Napier's bores compliant for E. coli as well as any protozoa risk. Council staff confirm that UV treatment is not required for the source water which means we do not need expensive treatment plants and ratepayers could save millions of dollars if Napier City goes chlorine-free.

If appropriate safeguards are set in place Napier could safely remove the chlorine right now.

The idea that chlorine protects against disease is flawed. Chlorination is mandatory in the UK so how come the incidence of waterborne diseases in the UK is five times higher than in the Netherlands where chlorine is not used, not even as a disinfectant in the pipe network?

In 2015 chlorine failed to keep people safe from a serious outbreak of cryptosporidium in the Lancashire city of Preston (population 700,000) in spite of having mandatory chlorination. The crisis was managed simply by maintaining a BOIL WATER regime.

Napier City Council could save ratepayer money if we piggy-back off the comprehensive Christchurch report and investigate what is involved in upgrading Napier's network in order to make the strongest possible case to the Government for exemption from any mandatory chlorination.

Stop the chlorine experiment!

* Pauline Doyle and Ken Keys are spokespersons for Guardians of the Aquifer