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Wairarapa’s woeful summer of pollution

Mar 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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Graph showing the level of bacteria found at Castle Point beach. The red line is the point where action is to be taken.

Wairarapa’s popular swimming spots have far exceeded the accepted level of bacteria from sewage this summer.

Castlepoint Beach showed some of the highest levels of contamination from enterococci bacteria, at more than five times the level required for action to be taken, reports from Greater Wellington Regional Council show.

Enterococci bacteria are found in sewage and can cause infection to open cuts as well as diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting if ingested.

The source of the contamination is agricultural run-off and treated sewage from towns such as Masterton and Greytown, the overflow of which is let out into the Raumahanga River after heavy rain, says regional council environmental scientist Summer Warr.

The Raumahanga River has been one of the worst contaminated, with six of the seven testing spots showing unacceptable levels of e-coli.

Ms Warr says the levels were higher than usual and likely a result of high rainfall in the eastern catchment areas directly before the tests were carried out on February 1 and 3, the days with the highest levels of contamination.

One testing point, Raumahanga River at Kokotau, showed four times the level of e-coli required for action to be taken.

Despite the high results in recent tests, Wairarapa beaches are rated as “good” in a 2009 Greater Wellington Regional Council report outlining water quality in the area.

Streams and rivers fare far worse in the report, but Ms Warr says the results are somewhat biased because of higher readings after rain in certain areas.
 
During summer months, all major swimming spots in the region are tested weekly and the results posted on the regional council’s website.

Because of the large changes in contaminant levels after rainfall, the council advises people not to swim in the days following heavy rain.

This is the latest in a long list of contaminations in Wairarapa’s rivers and streams, including last year when a farmer was prosecuted for keeping his livestock fenced in around a river.

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