Rural Ōhakea residents whose bore water is contaminated by firefighting foam are "waiting with bated breath" for Government to install a safe supply.

In December last year Manawatū District Council estimated the new water supply, from a deeper and uncontaminated acquifer, would cost $12.8 million.

The chairman of a committee of affected residents, Andy Russell, says the approximately 400 residents are tired of waiting for it.

"It's time to get it approved and installed, because people are fed up."


The water in their shallow bores is contaminated by PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam no longer used at the nearby Royal NZ Air Force Ōhakea Base.

The substances are very slow to break down, are still moving out of contaminated soil at the base and are likely to continue doing so for a least 100 years, a summary report from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) says.

Russell calls it a potted summary that minimises the issue. He says it's not settled yet and the committee is still meeting.

The contamination was caused by a Government agency, and he expects Government to pay for the water supply.

It will be chlorinated, supplied to the base and piped to affected properties. Once there it will be stored in tanks, piped at the owner's expense and metered. It will cost Russell more than he now pays for the water on his deer farm at the base boundary.

"We are going to pay for our water once it happens, but there's no appetite that we will be paying the capital cost of installation," he said.

Until the system is installed residents who need their tanks topped up during summer will get extra water supplied by the NZDF.

The plume of contaminated ground water is spreading south from the base, and will eventually hit the Makowhai Stream and Rangitīkei River.

Watercress in Ōhakea drains is contaminated. Photos / Stuart Munro
Watercress in Ōhakea drains is contaminated. Photos / Stuart Munro

The Environment Ministry says food grown on farms that use the water is safe, though eggs have shown high readings of the substances. Watercress and fish in the area are both contaminated.

The substances from firefighting foam are relatively new products. Their long-term effects are still unknown. They are very long-lasting.