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Greenpeace Releases Concerning Nitrate Contamination Test Results, Announces New Canterbury Water Testing

Greenpeace Aotearoa is announcing it will run free drop-in water testing days in Darfield, Rangiora, and Culverden in April following recent test results indicating high levels of nitrate in some Cantabrians’ drinking water.

Greenpeace says that following the launch of its ‘ Know Your Nitrate’ map late last year, it received hundreds of requests for free mail-in drinking water testing. Of these, many were from Canterbury, and many came back with high nitrate levels.

Greenpeace spokesperson Amanda Larsson says, "Everyone has the right to access clean safe drinking water, but what we’ve seen over the past three years is that for many rural communities, access to healthy drinking water is being taken away."

Greenpeace will be offering free drinking water testing in Darfield on the 19th April, Culverden on the 20th April, and Rangiora on the 21st April. These follow more than a dozen in-person water testing events that the organisation has run since 2021.

"We provide this free water testing to give rural communities the opportunity to know what’s in their drinking water," says Larsson.

"All you need to bring is a sample of your tap water, and we can test it for nitrate while you wait. Run your kitchen tap for one minute and fill a clean container with 200 mls of water and bring it along.

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"Household bore water tends to be more likely to reach higher levels of nitrate than town supply, but testing we’ve done in just the last year has shown several town supplies in the Canterbury region testing at more than 5 mg/L of nitrate."

A growing body of research has shown that even small amounts of nitrate contamination in drinking water can increase the likelihood of health risks such as bowel cancer and preterm birth.

"Rural communities are most likely to be impacted by high levels of nitrate contamination in drinking water, because they are the closest to intensive dairying - the main source of nitrate contamination," says Larsson.

"The number of dairy cows in New Zealand has doubled over the last thirty years, and use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser has increased seven-fold. This has led to a corresponding increase in nitrate contamination of water in rural communities, as cow urine and nitrate from the fertiliser ends up in groundwater and therefore in drinking water.

"No one should have to worry about whether the water they’re drinking could make them sick, but for many rural families this is a real risk."

The Know Your Nitrate map, launched in late November, is frequently updated with new testing results. Greenpeace says more than 200 new data points have been added to the map in this latest iteration.

Greenpeace says 73% of the new data points in Canterbury were above 1 mg/L - the level at which risks of bowel cancer appear - and 39% were above 5 mg/L, which can increase the risk of preterm birth. 3% of the Canterbury water tests were over the maximum allowable value of 11.3 mg/L, which has been proven to cause blue baby syndrome.

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