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High levels of E. coli in Taieri River near Waipiata

20 January, 2014

Otago Regional Council (ORC) water quality samples taken recently from the Taieri River between Creamery Road and Waipiata have shown high levels of the bacteria E.coli.

The ORC is erecting warning signs at popular swimming holes in the area.

Public Health South Medical Officer of Health Dr Marion Poore said high levels of E.coli have the potential to cause illness if swimmers swallow the contaminated water.

“We strongly recommend avoiding these areas, and if you are feeling sick with vomiting and or diarrhoea from having swum in or swallowed contaminated water contact your GP.”

Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas are that, those with less than 260 E.coli/100ml should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml poses a health-risk. ORC’s most recent sampling in the area on 13 January showed E.coli levels at 1500/100ml.

ORC director engineering, hazards and science Dr Gavin Palmer said bird activity, river flow, stock in waterways or even whether it is a cloudy or sunny day, (as E.coli often dies quickly in clear water when exposed to sunlight), can influence actual bacteria counts.

“Local farmers have been notified of the problem and been asked to keep a watch on stock near waterways, ensuring they do not have access to the river,” he said.

ORC staff have conducted extensive ground inspections, tracking the river through adjacent farms, but have not found any conclusive cause of the E.coli contamination. Inspections of the river and tributaries by kayak have also failed to find any clear cause. Further inspections and water quality testing of the river are planned this week.

To find out when the water is safe to swim in contact the ORC.

ENDS

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