The Greens said this would happen: Havelock North suffering di-hydrogenmonoxide problems


Bad and worn out jokes aside, what a shameful situation for New Zealand to be in.

How could a thousand people fall ill anywhere in New Zealand from drinking tap water? That is the question the Hastings District Council will need to answer over the contamination of its water supply to Havelock North. Outbreaks of campylobacter infection are usually associated with a faulty dish of food and the illness is isolated to those who have eaten it. The risk should not lie in a municipal water supply, not in New Zealand.

The bug made its presence felt in schools and rest homes around Havelock North on Friday when scores of pupils called in sick and pharmacies and medical centres were inundated with people seeking treatments for gastric illness. Two of the three rest homes in the district reported cases. Two residents were taken into intensive care at Hawke’s Bay Hospital and one death, of an elderly woman in a rest home, may have been attributable to the disease.

The council has found E. coli present in one of its underground bores and has been flushing chlorine through its water pipes over the weekend.

One of the first things people say when you travel somewhere substandard is “don’t drink the water!”

Some residents are also asking whether the council warned them on Friday as soon as it knew the water supply was suspect. In at least one case, a woman started drinking more water after falling ill, as doctors advise when vomiting and diarrhoea cause dehydration. Her husband had gone fishing that day equipped with water bottles filled from the tap. Many heard of warnings about the water from schools and word of mouth before they heard from the council.

An apology from the council placed in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper yesterday stated the presence of E. coli was detected on Thursday but the result was “not available” until Friday. By the time the result was received, “patterns of illness” were already being discussed with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

Questions about when council knew and how long it took to take action are going to need some answers.

On the face of it, some people were on the She’ll Be Right management plan, and in matters of public health, that’s not going to make the grade.? People were falling ill on Tuesday, council knew the water had poop in it on Thursday, and by Friday the community were still sucking the water down totally unaware a problem existed.

Heads need to roll, as they say, but the real problem is that in a supposed first world country this can happen at all.

Glen, a local, writes

Why on earth did they wait? They have a good public warning system in Hawke’s Bay, why didn’t they use it? How hard would it have been to tell people ‘we think there might be a bug in the water, please boil it before drinking’, we’ll get back to you when the results are in. It’s an easy safety measure for people to take. The decision to wait may have cost someone their life. The local council has been incompetent on water issues for year and simply sat on its hands and done nothing, or worse, made very poor decisions leading to increased pollution and environmental degradation. Somewhat ironic that the local mayor’s name rhymes with ‘fool’.

With local body elections in full swing, this could end up deciding a number of councilors futures and the scramble to keep this from being investigated and reported on promptly will be on both for those that want to have the results out and those who want them suppressed.


– NZ Herald