Water Concerns in Queenstown: From Contamination Risks to Disease Outbreaks
A Reassessment of Contamination Risk
The severity of water contamination risks in Queenstown, as previously reported to the water regulator Taumata Arowai, appears to have been overstated. The district council had earlier indicated an “extreme” risk of protozoa contamination with potentially “catastrophic” results. However, a recent correction of the assessment downgrades the risk to either “moderate” or “very high”. The primary issue is that the risk is not being managed effectively.
Two potential contamination sources were taken into consideration: animal waste and septic tanks. While the risk from animal waste was initially deemed as ‘managed’, this assessment proved inaccurate as one of the two intakes, at Two Mile, does not have UV treatment, which is vital for mitigating such risks.
Urgent Need for UV Treatment
The council is now urgently exploring options for installing UV treatment at Two Mile. The regulator insists on this addition; otherwise, the town’s boil-water notice will stay in effect. Meanwhile, daily sampling for E.coli or Total Coliforms has not identified any contamination, providing some reassurance to the community.
Last November, it became a requirement for every water supply in the country to submit a water safety plan and a source hazard plan. Unfortunately, only 750 out of almost 2000 supplies have complied with this requirement, illustrating a nationwide lack of preparedness for water contamination risks.
The Cryptosporidium Outbreak
The health agency Te Whatu Ora has confirmed 35 cases of cryptosporidium, a disease caused by protozoa and linked to a Queenstown outbreak. Symptoms of this disease include diarrhea and stomach cramps. Public health staff are urging people to get tested, even if their symptoms are mild, to help track the infection and identify the source.
Impact on Local Businesses
Local businesses are struggling under the dual pressures of the boil-water notice and staff illness during the busy school holidays. The notice requires all water used for drinking, food preparation, ice making, and teeth brushing to be boiled for one minute and then cooled. In response to the community’s concerns, the Queenstown Lakes District Council has arranged a drop-in session to answer questions and provide reassurances.
As the council moves towards a resolution of the water contamination issue and manages the cryptosporidium outbreak, the residents of Queenstown are urged to remain vigilant and adhere to the boil-water notice to protect their health.
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