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Maungawhio Lagoon And Opoutama Beach Contaminated


Swimming & Seafood Warning – Maungawhio Lagoon And Opoutama Beach Contaminated

Hawke’s Bay’s District Health Board Medical Officer of Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, today issued a warning, advising members of the public not to swim or collect shellfish from the Maungawhio Lagoon or Opoutama Beach due to contamination. The Maungawhio Lagoon is located near the northern side of Mahia Beach.

Dr McElnay says monitoring by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council identified high levels of E.coli and enterococci in water samples taken on Monday 1 March. This followed relatively heavy rain which fell in the catchments on Sunday 29 February

“The levels significantly exceeded the maximum levels recommended in the Ministries of Health and Environments Recreational Water Guidelines. The level of these bacteria indicates excessive amounts of faecal matter, either animal or human was in the water.

All surface water should be assessed before swimming by checking the water clarity, evaluating the number of animals and water birds in or near the swimming point”.

The safety of water can change rapidly following heavy rain and it is recommended that 3 days of fine weather should pass before swimming at any river, lagoon or estuary. Extremely heavy rainfall can also make the sea contaminated as well, as can be seen above in that Opoutama Beach was affected.

As both these contaminated sites, house shellfish, it is important to bear in mind that shellfish filter contaminants from the water they are growing in. Shellfish retain that contamination for an extended period of time, (beyond the time at which it is safe to swim in the water again). It is not clear how long you should avoid consuming shellfish from these areas as it is dependant on many environmental factors before and after the time the water sample was taken.

Consumption of contaminated shellfish can lead to serious infections and eating uncooked shellfish from recreational gathering areas at anytime carries a potential health risk that must be taken into consideration by the consumer. Thorough cooking of shellfish until piping hot is generally effective at disinfecting them. Warning signs have been erected by the Wairoa District Council.


The Public Health Unit recommends that people phone the Safe Swimming Line for the latest water quality results before they set off for a day in or on the water. The number is (06) 878-1368 and the line is updated regularly with information on sites that are known to be contaminated.

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