Families flock to get blood tests after lead found in water supply

Families with children are the first residents from Waikouaiti and Karitāne to get blood tests today following revelations from the Dunedin City Council over lead in their water supply.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Over 200 residents turned up to get tested today. Source: 1 NEWS

Elevated lead levels in Waikouaiti were reported as early as August last year and 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.

The council has been grappling to find out the cause of the lead spikes, but also copped flak after failing to communicate the issue to the public - after it took two months for Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins to find out and for a 'do not drink' order to be issued.

DCC chief executive Sandy Graham said today in a statement that the latest interim water test results, from samples taken on February 4 and 5, again showed low or non-detectable levels of lead in the water supply, underscoring the intermittent nature of the previous spikes.

She said while the latest water results are encouraging, but it is important to wait until all blood test results are in, and the results across the population analysed, before drawing conclusions.

"We are working closely with our partner agencies, including Public Health South, to make as much information available as quickly as possible, but we also need to ask residents to be patient during this important stage of work," Graham said.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Health officials say results from testing Waikouaiti and Karitāne locals will be publicly communicated in several weeks. Source: 1 NEWS

The DCC is also continuing its investigation into potential sources of contamination, including lead joins in old pipes, environmental contamination or sampling errors, Graham said.

The investigation has so far confirmed the presence of lead joins in very old cast iron pipes in the Waikouaiti network. While the joins have not been confirmed as the source of the intermittent significant spikes, work has now begun to replace the pipes.

Today, the DCC rolled out blood tests for locals, starting with families who have small children.

New dad, Richard Olsen was particularly keen to find out what levels are in his wife and newborn daughter's system.

"As soon as we can find out these levels, we will know what the story is moving forward," he told 1 NEWS.

He said the first two weeks with a new baby would have been better without the worry of the situation he said he hadn't been "fully been able to enjoy it as much as I sort of wanted to and hoped to".

He said he hoped test results would bring good news.

The Southern DHB's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack said in a statement today that people's results will be returned over the next week.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Mayor, Aaron Hawkins fronted up tonight at a public meeting over lead spiking water supplies in two Otago towns. Source: 1 NEWS

"It is important to be aware that we expect most, if not all, people to have detectable levels of the lead in their blood, as they will right across New Zealand. So being advised that lead is present in the blood is not in itself a cause for concern," she said.

Jack said it's expected that most people in New Zealand will have "detectable levels of the lead in their blood" and that it "is not in itself a cause for concern".

She said some people might have elevated blood lead levels due to exposure from another source, such as working with lead-based paint or other activities.

"Again, we cannot draw conclusions about the exposure to lead from the Waikouaiti water supply based on individual elevated results," Jack said.

Results would be reported back to each individual or parent and if any blood lead levels are above the internationally accepted notifiable level of 0.24 umol/L, then the public health unit staff will undertake a more detailed risk assessment and provide advice to the person or family.

The combined results will then be analysed and shared with the community at a public meeting, and with the media in about two to three weeks.