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Waikato Pipeline Must Be Reviewed

Waikato Pipeline Must Be Reviewed Following UK Research

The activation of the Waikato Pipeline should be delayed and the project reviewed following groundbreaking British research that shows drinking water from British rivers is being contaminated with female hormones that change the sex of fish and may lower male fertility, Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

The five year study commissioned by Britain's Environment Agency shows that the urine of women who take the contraceptive pill contain 'exquisitely potent' levels of the hormone oestrogen. This hormone is causing half of all the male fish in Britain's low-lying rivers to develop female characteristics. The oestrogen in urine is contaminating British rivers that supply one third of the country's drinking water.

"This research is internationally significant and New Zealanders should be extremely concerned at the findings. Aucklanders who from May will be drinking water pumped out of the Waikato River, from below the effluent discharges from upstream communities, should be particularly concerned," said Ms Fitzsimons.

New Zealand Ministry of Health officials have confirmed there are no regulations to control the discharge into waterways of oestrogen hormones in effluent containing urine. The Hamilton Sewage Plant is one of the major dischargers into the Waikato River. Several other communities also discharge into the river.

"Watercare Services have stated that water pumped from the Waikato will be treated to 'A grade' standards, however this standard does not measure oestrogen or require its removal. One of the leaders of this research in Britain, Professor Charles Tyler, notes that some of the oestrogen discharged to sewerage is so powerful that even undetectable levels could have an impact.

"Ministry officials have not taken any action in this area as to date they have stated that there is no evidence of the harmful effects of this hormone and no internationally accepted ways to assess any potential risks. This research changes that.

"The impact of this type of contamination may well be linked to the increasingly early maturation of young girls. The Greens want screening for oestrogen in our waterways to be adopted immediately," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"Given that the Ministry of Health is not testing for the presence of oestrogen and that even at undetectable levels this hormone can still have an impact, there can be no meaningful, science-based assurance to Aucklanders that their water will be completely free of this powerful hormone," she said.

"In light of this the Greens are calling for the tap not to be turned on."


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