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Students raise alarm over polluted stream

Mar 8th, 2013 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, News, Top Picture

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DANGER IGNORED: Children (black arrow) play in the Wainui Stream just below the sign (red arrow) warning of hazardous bacteria.

UNIVERSITY students have found potentially dangerous bacteria levels in a stream running beside one of Wellington’s most popular campgrounds.

E.coli bacteria – an indicator of faecal matter – showed up in testing carried out in the Wainui Stream at Paekakariki by Massey University students training to become environmental health officers.

The results were found to be above the “action required” level of 550 e.coli  per 100 milli-litres of water and signs have been put up to warn people the waterway is hazardous to people and pets.

Just above the Paekakariki Holiday Park campground, levels were nearly five times above action level, in places exceeding 2419 per 100 milli-litres.

The counts were described as “very high” by Stan Abbott, Massey senior lecturer in microbiology and communicable diseases, in a note to Kapiti Coast District Council.

The levels are thought to be a result of animal manure getting into the waterway, which because of recent dry weather has slowed to a trickle. 

The stream emerges from the hills above Paekakariki (which takes its water supply from that part of the catchment) and flows under State Highway 1 and through farmland before reaching the campground.

The council issued an assurance today that Paekakariki’s water is not in danger.

“There is absolutely no risk to the Paekakariki water supply,” says Sean Mallon, group manager of the council’s infrastructure services.

“All potable water is treated to remove any bacteria, and Paekakariki water is subject to ultra violet treatment prior to distribution.”

The students’ test results showed high levels all the way down past the campground, but then lower ones in the stretch to the sea.

They also tested the sea along Paekakariki Beach, but found that the level of 980 at the stream mouth quickly dropped to zero away from that area.

 Tasmin Evans, community services group manager for Kapiti Coast District Council, says the council suspected the problem was caused by a combination of low rainfall and high temperatures,  which have resulted in low flows in the stream, combined with agricultural runoff from further upstream.

The students’ tests were done on February 27 and the results given to the council by Massey two days later on March 1.

The council immediately erected a sign on a post in the river at the foreshore. Another (see above) laminated sheet appeared on a tree at the Paekakariki Holiday Park just upstream.

The council has since out up four more large signs in prominent places around the area.

Children were seen playing in the water last weekend only metres downstream from the beach sign, but everyone seemed to be staying well clear this weekend, including from the camp, which has far fewer tenting families than in weekends leading up to the end of February.

The beach and nearby Queen Elizabeth II Park have hosted numerous sports and recreational activities over summer, while the holiday park reports record occupancy as many Wellingtonians make the most of record-breaking fine weather.

The district council says it does not normally monitor the stream, but further testing will be carried out from now on.

Council environmental health team member Julie Lloyd says until they have information showing the water is safe, the signs will remain in place.

Wellington Greater Regional Council, which has overall responsibility for environmental monitoring, has so far declined to comment.

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3 comments
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  1. I dont want to be picky and realise these results are important but the reporting of the results with a decimal point in there is surely not good scientific reporting.

  2. Amazing and informative article

  3. Very informative article

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