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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 an advisory warning people in the Far North and Whangarei Districts to stay out of waterways, flood waters and harbours to avoid contact with contaminated water.

The advisory follows high rainfall with flooding in the Far North District and low-lying areas of Whangarei District.

Whangarei District Council 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.

“However, particularly in rural areas, private septic tank and effluent holding systems may be vulnerable and in Whangarei urban areas some manholes may have surcharged.

“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.”

1st September 2014


Description of EventHigh rainfall with flooding in Far North District and low-lying areas of Whangarei District
LocationWhangarei and Far North Districts
Event Time/Date30-31st August
Duration of Event~48 hours
Cause of EventAdverse weather event
Time/Date of Notification31st August
Source of Information about EventFNDC/WDC
Estimated volume and degree of treatmentLarge volumes of contaminated waterways and flooded low lying land. Confirmed spills from a number of sewage pump stations in FNDC and network overflows from Whangarei systems, and flooded septic tanks.
Risk Assessment
HazardMicrobial contamination from contaminated stormwater, including sewage contamination of waterways and affected low-lying land.
Exposed Population1. Swimmers and people with contact with water in the affected districts
2. Shellfish gatherers in the affected districts.
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 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.
Risk Communication Assessment
Audience (people directly affected)• General public
• People who swim, boat, or collect shellfish in the affected districts
• Iwi and Hapu in the affected districts.
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 spills are repaired (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.

Clair Mills
Medical Officer of Health


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