All Havelock North schools have now closed because of the widespread illness caused by the town’s contaminated water supply.
Lucknow School, Te Mata Primary, Havelock North Primary, Havelock North Intermediate and Havelock North High School closed yesterday after an emergency meeting between the e Ministry of Education, principals and board chairmen.
The Red Cross Disaster Welfare Support team has been called in and Parliament’s Speaker has granted Annette King’s request for urgent debate on drinking water contamination in the town, one of many in New Zealand to have water quality problems. It is estimated as much as 1 million people drink water from unsafe or untested water supplies.
So far, government support for the town has been noticeably lacking and they’ve steadfastly refused to call a state of emergency. Many people are having to buy their own medical supplies and drinking water from local retailers. The town has been devastated by the outbreak, and the streets are empty.
Approximately 2,000 people have been made sick affected by the contaminated tap water. Overwhelmed local medical services have struggled to cope.
People drinking ‘poo’ in unchlorinated water
New Zealand’s massive intensification of dairy and other livestock farming generates vast quantities of animal waste materials. The nation has so many dairy cattle that the pollution from them alone is equivalent to the population of China. It should come as no surprise to hear that animal waste occasionally gets into the water supplies, as well as the many streams that are no longer safe for swimming and can only now be waded in.
It beggars belief that towns the size of Havelock North still don’t have access to a disinfected, potable water supply, but do have fluoride added to their water.
Mayor Lawrence Yule hinted that there is a wider problem with the bores that draw water from the aquifer, as there have been multiple failures in the past
“I think there’s a problem somewhere,” said the district’s mayor, Lawrence Yule, on Saturday. “We’ve had three of these [incidents] in the last year. There is certainly a problem with those bore fields.” There certainly is. The previous contaminations have been traced to a different bore, now closed for investigation, but clearly there is a wider problem...source
Power supply failure, pumps knocked out. A “lesson in how not to handle a disaster”
A reader left his comment on the Hawkes Bay news page
there is no mention of the record rainfall last week, the power knocking out all of the effluent pump station in Hastings / Havelock north and toilets backing up and overflowing, and the contamination of the storm water that followed this event, and as most people know aquifers fill from many sources including ground water. this highlights the lack of infrastructure to mitigate these risks, I dunno maybe backup generators on critical pumps might stop 2000+ people getting sick, as the article suggests it must be stock run off in Havelock north – so many farm in the middle of town!!!
Hawke’s Bay District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Nick Jones yesterday said the majority of people presenting with the gastro illness were affected by water-borne campylobacter bacteria. He said animal faeces may have contaminated the water supply, possibly into the groundwater itself.
Professor Nigel French, the director of the Infectious Diseases Research Centre at Massey University, said groundwater was much less likely to be contaminated than surface water.”But if it is campylobacter, based on previous experiences, it is most likely to have come from cattle and sheep and run-off of effluent/faeces,” French said.
“However, campylobacter can also be carried by poultry and wild birds. There was a similar outbreak in Darfield in 2012.
“I think this outbreak demonstrates that even secure groundwater can become contaminated and therefore testing and treatment is advised to ensure the best public health outcomes, particularly if there has been a high-risk event, such as heavy rainfall.” source
It is shocking that this can happen in a country that once tentatively called itself first world. The Government has been accused of being “missing in action” and pharmacies are busy making hay