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Water expert urges chlorination of Christchurch water

24 January 2018

Water expert urges chlorination of Christchurch water

A leading water engineer is urging Christchurch City Council Councillors to vote for chlorination tomorrow.

Iain Rabbitts, Water and Wastewater Manager at engineering and design consultancy, Harrison Grierson, and one of the members on the expert panel for the Havelock North Water Inquiry, says consumers need immediate protection from possible microbial contamination, which occurred in the Havelock North water crisis, making 5000 people sick.

Commenting on tomorrow’s vote by Christchurch City Council about chlorinating the city’s water to counter a potential risk from its underground wells, Mr Rabbitts says it is vital for the health and safety of residents that chlorination is permanent. However, he says chlorination is only the first step in what needs to be extensive modifications and treatment of Christchurch’s drinking water.

“Even the smallest crack in a well allows surface water contamination,” said Mr Rabbitts, who has 25 years’ experience designing, commissioning and testing water treatment plants. “The contamination in underground wells was fundamental in the Havelock North outbreak with surface water being able to flood the well head.” Mr Rabbitts said anything from cryptosporidium, which chlorine is ineffective against, to oil and other hydrocarbons, could get into a well.

“The right response, the safe response, and the public health response, is to chlorinate. Councillors, in making your decision, please consider those most at risk, the very young, the elderly and those who are already ill or on medication. Please make the politically courageous decision.”

Mr Rabbitts says this issue reinforces the call in the Havelock North Stage 2 report for an independent regulator and removing political influence from the delivery of water services. He believes it is unfair for Councillors to have to decide a critical public health issue.

He says this is a good opportunity for the Ministry of Health to demonstrate leadership, make public health safer, and provide guidance for Christchurch Councillors.

In the meantime, for those Christchurch residents concerned about contamination, Mr Rabbitts suggests boiling their water.


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