Dunedin City Council still in the dark over water contamination, do not drink order remains

The no drink order in the East Otago towns of Waikouaiti and Karitāne remains in place as Dunedin City Council (DCC) grapples with the cause of the contamination of the towns' water supplies with lead.

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People in Waikouaiti and Karitāne have been drinking water laced with lead for almost two months. Source: 1 NEWS

In a statement today, DCC suggested there could be several causes to the spikes of lead in the drinking supply.

"While the source of the contamination is still not known, lead joins in older pipes, environmental contamination in the wider catchment, or even sampling errors, are all potential causes of the spikes in lead which led to the ‘no drink’ water notice being issued," DCC Chief Executive Sandy Graham said.

Elevated lead levels in Waikouaiti were reported as early as August last year, one sample on December 8 found 0.39 micrograms of lead per litre, almost 40 times the acceptable level of 0.01 micrograms a litre.

Work to dig up and check the condition of some sections of old cast iron water pipes in Waikouaiti is almost complete, Graham said. 

Five sections of pipeline across the area, including a section in Edinburgh Street, are being assessed.

"Where lead joins have been used, the DCC plans to replace these sections in the near future to remove that potential source of contamination from the network."

A public meeting was held on Friday night as DCC and Southern DHB officials tried to allay the fears of apprehensive locals, however the lack of communication from the council about the situation was a source of hostility for some. 

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It took two months for the mayor to find out and a 'do not drink' order to be issued. Source: 1 NEWS

Free blood tests are set to start for residents in Waikouaiti and Karitāne on Tuesday.

The council said today it would also provide free fruit and vegetables for residents which would be available from Tuesday to Friday at East Otago Events Centre.

"The DCC will supply a range of fruit and vegetables to these residents until it is clearer what the potential effects are of eating home-grown vegetables that have been irrigated with local water," the statement said.

“This is a very worrying time for residents in these communities and it’s important we do what we can to help at a practical level while we continue working towards finding the cause of the contamination," Graham said.

While the no drink order remains, water tankers are still on site to make sure people have access to clean, safe drinking water.

The DCC plans to set up a drop-in centre at the Waikouaiti Library the following week so residents are able to speak to staff about any concerns they may have.