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Avoid flood waters, stream, river and harbour water

News Release

Avoid flood waters, stream, river and harbour water

Northland District Health Board’s Medical Officer of Health Clair Mills has issued a general region-wide advisory warning people to stay out of waterways, flood waters and harbours to avoid contact with contaminated water.

WDC Infrastructure and Services Group Manager Simon Weston said there will be a range of contaminants in all flood water, streams, rivers and the harbour as a result of the prolonged rainfall.

“Our waste water treatment plant is discharging treated effluent, not raw; the Hatea pumping station has operated according to plans, and where there have been power cuts we have had sucker trucks and generators at pumping stations.

“However, particularly in rural areas, private septic tank and effluent holding systems may be vulnerable and in urban areas it is possible that some manholes may be surcharging.

“The advice is to keep out of the water until it is clear (generally five days after the storm ends) and not to consume shellfish or wetfish caught in the storm area. More detail is outlined in the advisory attached to this email.”


Date/time: 10th July 2014, 1230hrs

PUBLIC HEALTH ADVICE FOR ALL DISTRICT COUNCILS IN NORTHLAND

Event
Description of EventWidespread flooding across the Northland Region, along with storm damage.
LocationNorthland region (all 3 district councils)
Event Time/Date9-11th July (predicted ongoing rainfall)
Duration of EventOver 48 hours
Cause of EventAdverse weather event
Time/Date of Notification12 noon 120th July 2014
Source of Information about EventFNDC/WDC
Estimated volume and degree of treatmentLarge volumes of contaminated waterways and land.
Risk Assessment
HazardMicrobial contamination from human sewage, with sewage contamination of waterways and land.
Exposed Population1. Swimmers and people with contact with water in Northland
2. Shellfish gatherers in Northland
3. Fishing in estuarine areas.
Health RisksGastrointestinal illness
Skin infections
Respiratory infections
Public Health Risk Estimation (based on the information currently available)Medium - High
Key Messages
1.General Public• Exposure of general public to contaminated water when carrying out clean up and repair work from storm damage.
2. Swimmers and people with recreational contact with sewage contaminated water• The usual advice for swimmers in contaminated water is to stay out of the water for 5 days from the time that the sewage spill ceases or until water tests show that it is safe to swim.
• People involved in activities that are likely to involve head immersion such as kayaking and dingy sailing should follow the same advice as for swimmers.
• People who have contact with sewage-contaminated water should always thoroughly wash and dry their hands with soap and water afterwards. Open cuts or sores should be kept clean and covered with waterproof sticking plasters. If a cut develops redness, swelling, or infection seek immediate medical attention.
3. Shellfish gatherers• Do not collect shellfish likely to be contaminated with human sewage for at least 28 days from the time of contamination.
4. Consumers of fish• It is best not to catch and/or eat fish caught in estuarine areas because of the health risks for 5 days from the time the sewage contamination ceases.
Risk Communication Assessment
Audience (people directly affected)• General public
• People who swim, boat, collect shellfish or fish in Northland
• Iwi and Hapu in Northland
Channels of Communication• Media release, website and radio
• Phone call to commercial fishers
• Phone call to groups or clubs likely to use freshwater and marine areas for recreational purposes
• Signs (should be positioned so that they are clearly visible foreveryone accessing the affected areas

The bathing/shellfish warning signs should be erected for 5 days from the time the sewage spill is fixed (or until water tests show that it is safe to swim). When the bathing/shellfish signs come down they should be replaced by shellfish specific warning signs which stay in place until 28 days from the date the sewage spill was stopped.

Stakeholders (agencies or people who are closely linked to the audience)• Maori leaders
Channels of Communication• Telephone and/or email/fax/deliver copy of media release
Risk Communication Recommendations
Advise the exposed population using the communication channels listed above about sewage contamination, and the ways that they can protect their health. Ensure that Iwi and Hapu are informed.

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