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Regional council & DHB team up for waterways

MEDIA RELEASE

10 November 2004

Regional council & DHB team up to monitor recreational waterways

Hawke's Bay Regional Council, the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's public health unit and the local councils are once again working together to make sure popular beach and river spots are safe for swimming.

The organisations team up to monitor the water quality at the most popular recreational water sites around Hawke's Bay throughout the summer months

Monitoring starts on Monday 8 November and continues until 22 March 2005.

Technicians from Hawke's Bay Regional Council take water samples from 28 beach, lagoon and river sites between Mahia and Porangahau, which are sent to a laboratory for testing each week. When bacteria levels exceed national guidelines, the public health unit will advise the public of swimming and other restrictions through the media, websites, and the Swim Safe phone line.

Local Councils put up warning signs and inspect the affected site to see if the source of the contamination can be found.

Water conditions can change rapidly and the general advice for swimming is:

- It is best to avoid waterways for three days after heavy rain, especially if the water is murky.

- Avoid waterways if there are livestock or large numbers of birds in or near the water.

A "traffic light" system is being used to inform the public whether the water quality of a site is suitable for swimming and other water-based recreational activities. The public will be advised of changes in status via media reports, the Hawke's Bay District Health Board website and swim-safe line (06) 878 1368.

"Green Mode" indicates there is minimal health risk for recreational activities involving contact with water.

"Amber Mode" indicates the health risk for recreational activities involving

contact with the water may have increased. This acts as a trigger and

councils collect more frequent samples.

"Red Mode" any contact with the water could present a significant risk.

Hawke's Bay DHB health protection officer, Ian Inkson, said the perception many of us have is that our coastal water, estuaries and rivers are some of the cleanest in the world is well founded. However, after heavy rain it can be a different story.

"Stormwater waste from streets, lawns and parks and deposits it into rivers and the sea. Run-off from farms collects waste from farm animals, which also ends up in rivers and finally out to sea.

"Animal and human waste contain disease-causing organisms and bacteria that can survive in river and marine environments for some time, which is why it's not wise to swim near stormwater outlets, or swim at beaches or rivers for up to three days after a heavy downpour.

Illnesses related to infected water can include diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting (tummy bug symptoms) but also flu-like symptoms and skin, ear and eye infections. People with symptoms that persist should see their doctor.

Certain river sites regularly exceed maximum levels of bacteria set down in the New Zealand standards, regardless of whether rain occurred prior. These rivers are the Clive River, Puhokio Lagoon at Waimarama Beach and the Waipatiki Lagoon at Waipatiki Beach. These rivers are not generally recommended for swimming.

Further information on the water quality of recreational waterways can be found on:

- The public health unit's 24 hour Safe Swimming line: (06) 878 1368.

- The Hawke's Bay District Health Board website: www.healthinhawkesbay.co.nz under public health alerts.

- The Hawke's Bay Regional Council website: www.hbrc.govt.nz under environmental monitoring.

END


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