Despite reports that appear to suggest otherwise, Waitaki district water is “absolutely” safe to drink, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.
Mr Kircher was responding to an Otago Daily Times report on Monday that placed the Waitaki District Council as the worst in Otago for pass rates in the Ministry of Health’s Drinking Water Quality report for 2017-18 Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand, with just two of 12 Waitaki supplies meeting Health Act standards and none meeting drinking water standards.
Oamaru, which serves 14,390 people, was the largest supply in Otago to not meet either standard.
Notably on Tuesday, the council celebrated its “highly commended” award from the recent Local Government New Zealand awards for its 34km water pipeline from Oamaru to Hampden, which supplies Oamaru drinking water to southern Waitaki communities.
“On Oamaru water supply, we’ve also got: Weston, Enfield, Kakanui, Herbert, Waianakarua, Hampden and Moeraki. So, all of those are actually on really good water, which is the bulk of the population anyway,” Mr Kircher said.
“Yes, it is [safe]. And it’s just the fact that a sample gets delayed and it’s been too long that it’s been taken before it’s tested, and that means it’s a ‘technical fail’ – and that was all of the ones on the Oamaru scheme.”
The ODT reported that of 55 water supplies in the region, 48, or 87.3%, did not reach Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand, compared with 33% nationally.
Council water services and waste manager Martin Pacey earlier told the ODT the reasons for its low pass rates were typically “technical in nature”. On Tuesday, he said the report for 2017-18 included “old information from the best part of 18 months ago”.
He said since 2018, 91% of the population in the Waitaki district had been drinking water that met the drinking water standards.
Samples not being delivered to testing facilities during timeframes established under the drinking water standards led to the failures rather than unsafe drinking water.
“There are still some supplies, some of these smaller rural supplies, the four Corriedale ones and Stoneburn, which need to be upgraded,” Mr Pacey said.
“They haven’t had failed results as such, but they still need to have barriers put in place.
“It’s not saying that it’s unsafe, it’s just that we can’t demonstrate that it’s safe.”