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Shit in the water

Written By: - Date published: 3:15 pm, August 15th, 2016 - 92 comments
Categories: accountability, farming, health, water - Tags: , , , ,

The Havelock North “gastro” outbreak is all over the papers –
Gastro outbreak hits Hawke’s Bay
‘Widespread’ vomiting and diarrhoea gastro outbreak in Havelock North
Animal faeces in water supply may be causing Havelock North gastro outbreak
Gastro bug in Hawke’s Bay water may have claimed a life
Gastro outbreak: Council issues apology

Even internationally –
Faeces linked to gastroenteritis outbreak that hit thousands in New Zealand town

The damage so far is one possible death, two older people in intensive care, 18 hospitalised, 50 making their way to the emergency department, 280 notifications, and hundreds of kids staying away from school.

As the headlines say, it looks like the cause is animal shit / E Coli in the bore water supply.

Makes you wonder if we should be aiming for something higher than “wadeable” water quality doesn’t it.

92 comments on “Shit in the water”

  1. b waghorn 1

    It would be nice if you waited for proof before you stirred the shit, you know just incase its from some other cause.

    • Poission 1.1

      You mean like Campylobacter,most likely a black swan event.

    • RedLogix 1.2

      Well it’s widespread in a community where the common factor is the water supply.

      http://www.hastingsdc.govt.nz/about-hastings-districts-water-supply

      According to their website it’s classified as “Secure Groundwater”, which means they probably don’t add Chlorine or UV treat it. Unless there has been a serious breakdown in their operational management of the supply, then the first place to look is what is coming out of the bore.

      • weka 1.2.1

        See my link below. The bore comes from an aquifer where the water is 50 years old. Is that likely to be contaminated enough to cause this outbreak? What are the structures of the bore and supply lines and could it be there?

        • RedLogix 1.2.1.1

          Any water that’s been underground more than about a year is generally considered safe. However that might only hold true if the impermeable layer that is capping the aquifer (usually a layer of clay at least 5m thick) is still intact. That’s probably the big unknown.

          Alternatively it’s possible there has been some pipe work done that wasn’t correctly sterilised afterwards … but geeze you’d have to be unlucky to contaminate the entire system this badly.

          • weka 1.2.1.1.1

            Old system and cracked pipes? I assume the water is pumped to a holding tank.

            “However that might only hold true if the impermeable layer that is capping the aquifer (usually a layer of clay at least 5m thick) is still intact. That’s probably the big unknown.”

            Is it possible to test the water as it enters the bore? There’s also the issue of how long it would take for contaminants to filter down through the land right? That’s not a quick thing, depending on how deep the aquifer is.

          • NZJester 1.2.1.1.2

            There is a very large section of Havelock North that has only been developed in the last few years.
            About a 6th of the size of Havelock North today was not there just a few years back.
            Maybe it has something to do with all the new water pipes that have been installed? Maybe them putting in all the new pipework screwed up something.

    • weka 1.3

      I agree b. There’s a description of the physics of the water supply in this link. However the fact that someone has died, and two elderly people are seriously ill, puts this on a whole new level. I just hope that the media focus on providing good information rather than sensationalising it.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11693935

  2. Marple 2

    It’s not “all over the papers”. Look at stuff.co.nz and you’ll see absolutely nothing on the home page despite the fact that this is a story of national importance. One has to question why they’re not publishing anything on it but surely someone wants to play this down.

  3. Siobhan 3

    I don’t know, isn’t this just a case of ‘shit happens’. I don’t see any evidence of systematic stuff up. The appalling state of the Tukituki and water management in general in the Hawkes Bay is not a factor in this case.

    As to the Guardians claim “Thousands of residents of a small New Zealand town in the North Island are seriously ill”…well I’m down here and that’s simply not true. I suspect that as we speak there are far more serious cases of water contamination, affecting who knows how many people, in more countries than I can possibly name here.

    Luckily the residents of Havelock North are well able to afford bottles of Artesian water. Possibly enough to bathe in.

    • whispering kate 3.1

      Yes Siobhan, there are many countries who have poor water and its totally unacceptable, those countries are very poor or war torn or have climate situations where water is scarce. That doesn’t mean it is okay because it isn’t, but we have no excuses here. New Zealand is meant to be a member of the developed nations of the world and we were once. Healthy kids, Plunket nurses to watch out for our kids until they were 5 years old, school dental nurses, eye checks at school for eye defects. Now at a Governmental level we are abdicating our responsibilities big time for national care of our kids and it will bite us on the bum in the future. Clever nations look after their kids so that they will be a successful work force in the future, they have a clue or two upstairs. We are a a disgrace and some other developed countries are too.

      For this water contamination to have occurred in Hawkes Bay is a disgrace and the first thing that came into my mind was it was rural effluent from farms nearby had discharged into the waterways or being bore water had leached into the subsoil over a period of time. We will have to wait and see from test results but don’t expect the culprits to be brought to justice – it doesn’t happen like that in little ol’ God’s Own.

      • Cinny 3.1.1

        “the first thing that came into my mind was it was rural effluent from farms nearby had discharged into the waterways or being bore water had leached into the subsoil over a period of time”

        Was wondering the same Kate.

        Also was wondering if the council were warned about this possibility,

    • Kevin 3.2

      It’s not all rich pricks in Havelock North. There is a large area in the south, where I live, of lower income families.

      • Siobhan 3.2.1

        I know, apologies. A cheap shot.
        And anyway, no matter your income it is beyond belief that the council didn’t immediately come up with some plan, even if they had to wing it, of providing drinkable water for each and every block and either check houses themselves and/or actively promote the idea that people needed check on both neighbours. I hate to think how many elderly are on their own, some may even now, not actually realize what is going on.

        Yule thinks this isn’t an election issue. I suspect he may be wrong. And in fact I hope water becomes an even bigger issue in the election. A safe National seat like Havelock suffering a mass poisoning event, no matter what the exact cause, is something that will not be forgotten quickly.

  4. Ad 4

    Bore wells as the primary source for a pretty major town – as it is in Havelock North – is a risk that’s going to get higher and higher.

    The local Council should be required to prove that faecal coliforms in the drinking water to this level DON’T come from farming. And it’s a great space for a civil case against Council management.

    Naturally, we’ll wait for the Hawkes Bay Regional Council to crow about the local Council should lock in a long term contract for supply to its Ruataniwha Dam.

    For this scale of sickness, there should be a cleanout of the local Council at the upcoming elections. And the local Health Board failing to provide clear warnings tells me we need a new local Health Board. Who are also coming up for re-election.

    Same situation of contamination of bore water is coming faster and faster in a whole bunch of McKenzie Country, mid-Canterbury and Central Otago townships.

    • McFlock 4.1

      The local Council should be required to prove that faecal coliforms in the drinking water to this level DON’T come from farming.

      Is that even possible? I’m assuming campylobacter can settle in a myriad of different stomach systems…

      • Ad 4.1.1

        DNA and other quality testing is pretty easy now. If they are stuck, Watercare has great sample testing facilities.

        • McFlock 4.1.1.1

          DNA isn’t a magic bullet: the DNA of campylobacter is campylobacter DNA. Unless it’s a specific strain that’s only transmissable through cows, how would we know where it came from? Even if there were cow proteins or whatever in the water alongisde the campylobacter, it could still have come from a broken human sewage pipe because people eat cows.

          Don’t get me wrong, intensive dairy farming is on the list of suspects, but proving it is the issue.

          • Poission 4.1.1.1.1

            there is 1dairy farm in H/n

            campylobacter is from an avian reservoir almost surely.

            • McFlock 4.1.1.1.1.1

              cheers

            • Ad 4.1.1.1.1.2

              A Black Swan event then 😉

              They are the monopoly fresh provider, with the full legal quality responsibility: they need to prove themselves to the public, to the Ministry of Health, to the media, and of course to the government who are begging to reform the ass out of local government even more.

              Yule knows this is his big election test to fail.

              • Poission

                Agreed.

                The foremost problem with local authorities is their big noting,and an absence of prioritization on the basics,such as potable water,sewage and waste treatment etc.

                Privatization is not an option in the same time scale water charges from local councils have risen 37% and the previous local council owned electrical supply and distribution company charges 257%.

                With the H/N event.it is more probable of a cross contamination (ingress) into the local supply pipe network from recent heavy flooding .

            • b waghorn 4.1.1.1.1.3

              Thanks some lefties need to deal with their rabid hatred of farming .

              • mac1

                “Rabid hatred of farming”? Hah! Mad dogs don’t bite farmers, for fear of what they might catch.

                Really, b wag horn. Lefties hate farming? I was a farm worker. My father’s first job was as a farm worker. My grandparents were all farmers, as were my great grand parents.

                Farmers grow most of our food. They play banjo. They provide our rugby props. They all stand legs well apart, set against life’s shaking.

                Seriously, they are often screwed over by banks, companies and the party they most support. They are over-subscribed in the depression and suicide stats. I do note your ‘some lefties’ but it’s best to leave off the stereotypes.

                • b waghorn

                  Have you spied the photo used to head this post on the home page.

                  • mac1

                    Ooh! Ooh! Cow poos!

                    WTF has that photo got to do with lefties hating farming? Apart from calling to mind your bovine scatology?

                    • b waghorn

                      Why would a photo of a cow shitting be used if the poster didn’t want to inflame a good old bit of farmer hate.
                      And even if it turns out to be cow shit it is still a failure of the council to protect the water supply not farmers in that district.

                    • weka

                      “And even if it turns out to be cow shit it is still a failure of the council to protect the water supply not farmers in that district.”

                      You had me up to that point b. Yes council have responsibilities to protect water. But that doesn’t give farmers an excuse to pollute up the and beyond the limit of the law. This is exactly why so many people are angry with dairy farmers in particular.

                      There is also the whole issue of Fed Farmers capture of Regional Councils.

                    • mac1

                      I get your point, now, bwaghorn. I actually did not associate a picture of a cow shitting in a post involving faecal contamination, with an hate attack on farmers.

                      The link is fair. Reasonable interpretation, I’d suggest (for I didn’t see it!), is that the photo of the cow is not hating farming.

                      But as for your excusing farmers who do not protect the water supply by blaming the council. That’s like blaming the IRD for tax fraud.

                    • b waghorn

                      You’re assuming that if it is caused by cow shit that it’s because a farmer is breaking the law. If that is not the case then it is because the council has failed to provide a safe supply.

              • Ad

                All water providers are rated across NZ.
                Rural ones are by far the worst.

              • I’m a leftie and I don’t hate farmers or farming – I do dislike intensely polluters though, and environmental cheats, and the industrial cruelty of modern farming methods – so I hope they find the source of this outbreak and go hard on that source.

                I do also think that farmers should take their water from below their farms so that they can experience the effect of cows/irrigation and so on. I am sure that if there were any issues with water quality it would be fixed quickly.

                • b waghorn

                  I want rivers fenced off from cattle as much as most greenies (as long as common sense is used) when my tanks dry my water comes from the river , my employers have installed a laser water purifier , and yes through the book at those flouting the rules , but remember city rate payers never get fined when their shit ends up in the water ways.

                  • How would you, b waghorn, fine any particular city rate payer and how would you assign a particular faecal pathogen to any particular ratepayer in order to be fair with your fining? Tricky business that. Furthermore 🙂 fencing rivers off from stock is merely a step in the right direction. There’s much more than that needing to be done.

                    • weka

                      I’m pretty sure that if the sewerage pipes at my place cracked and started leaking onto my neighbours place, and I did nothing about it, esp after being warned, then legal/regulatory action would be taken against me.

                    • b waghorn

                      If the council was fined that’s fining the rate payer, it never happen though.
                      Yes i’m aware much more needs doing , I’ve only been full time sheep and beef farming for 4 years but i’m watching how water and sediment run off works , I also am trying to manage the stock in a way that limits erosion ‘ but as i don’t as yet set the stocking policy i’m limited by that.

                    • It’s a vexed issue, fining a council that pays its fine with ratepayers money. Many councils have redundant pipes that would be excessively expensive to replace, costing the ratepayers, again, a great deal, more than some could possibly afford. It’s catch 22-ish situation, resulting from the adoption of a faulty system (sewerage disposal to water). Humanure to earth is the only reasonable way, imo and then there needs to be much thought put into how it’s to be done. Soil organisms manage humanure like nobodies’ business 🙂

                  • What distance from the water do you fence to, b waghorn? Do you plant on the waterside of that fence?

                    • b waghorn

                      As i said i’m still just a gdb (general dogs body) with a boss that isn’t a bad guy but isn’t interested in others input or ideas . Apart from the main river not much is fenced off where i am on the other farm there is some wet land retirement.
                      The river scheme they have going here is proving to be a waste of time as all . From what i’ve noticed here and at other places any where that rubbish trees like poplar and willow are planted on river banks only cause trouble , apart from a kind of shrub willow that has no real trunk. Grass is good on floodable rivers and dare i say it ,if it gets a trimming by sheep on occasion it holds well,
                      If i get to management level I would be looking at wetland fencing and planting with every thing from flax to kahikatia .
                      We do 120 poplar poles over two farms a year i’m unconviced that they achieve anything around soil stabilisation , but are good stock shade and by dropping there leaves don’t kill the grass in winter causing soil errosion like totara do.

          • Robert Guyton 4.1.1.1.2

            EColi DNA reveals the source, bovine, ovine, human or avian. Bet there’s some of that in there along with the campylobactor. Human’s my bet.

    • weka 4.2

      “Bore wells as the primary source for a pretty major town – as it is in Havelock North – is a risk that’s going to get higher and higher.”

      In this case it’s from an aquifer, and the water there is fifty years old and tests free of surface contaminants. Do you think it’s likely to be the source of contamination?

      “The local Council should be required to prove that faecal coliforms in the drinking water to this level DON’T come from farming.”

      I’ll hazard a guess that it will be hard to find the source of the contamination. What then?

  5. stunned mullet 5

    The council and their contractors responsible for this debacle should be liable.

    Will anyone be held accountable ? Doubt it..

  6. adam 6

    “Our not giving a shit, only kills the old and young.

    A brighter future. “

  7. weka 7

    “The Hastings District Council is still investigating how the bug got into the water, but said it may be related to heavy storms and surface flooding last week.”

    “The DHB has confirmed that the illnesses stemmed from contamination in the water supply, though the cause of that contamination is not yet known.”

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/310907/havelock-north-water-supply-suspected-as-two-critically-ill-with-gastric-illness

  8. r0b 8

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/310964/animal-faeces-in-water-supply-may-be-cause-of-gastro-outbreak “It is the third case in three years of bacterial contamination in Havelock North’s water supply coming from bores, after E coli was discovered in the water in 2013 and 2015”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11693935 “Hundreds of school students were absent due to the disease on Friday. The outbreak has been linked to an underground bore which tested positive for E. coli.”

    Systemic problem.

  9. Mad Plumber 9

    It would be unusual for a town’s bore to be contaminated but there is the possibility of contamination from a connection to the town’s water which is not protected by a Backflow Preventor. There was the case of Darfield’s water being contaminated but I do not know what the source was.
    There is also the possiblity of the aquifer being contaminated by a irrigation set up spreading effluent and is also connected to the same aquifer and not having a proper Backflow Preventor at the head of the bore the effluent can flow into the bore. Ecan has allowed the installation of a Backflow Preventor that does no comply with NZ regulations but that is another story.

    • weka 9.1

      Would it be something like this? (I assume this is more like a home bore though). I’m trying to visualise how contaminated water could get into the bore if it wasn’t coming from the aquifer. Do you mean that surface liquid runs down from the top (eg in heavy rain) and then gets pumped up again?

  10. weka 10

    Here’s a diagram showing the Hastings water supply. My understanding is that for water to get from the surface (eg the river or paddock) to the aquifer, it would need to filter down through the ground and that would take a long time (years or decades). This is why it takes so long to clean aquifers, because once you realise there is a problem there is still all that pollutant still on its way down and that takes years to clear.

    http://www.hastingsdc.govt.nz/files/all/property/water/Aquifer.jpg

    • weka 11.1

      The Havelock North aquifer is apparently 20m down. I don’t think it’s comparable with people digging shallow wells close to long drops.

  11. Rosemary McDonald 12

    From the “baybuzz” archive, from November last year…

    http://www.baybuzz.co.nz/archives/8221/

    “The Heretaunga Plains unconfined and confined aquifer system is the main groundwater resource for people living on and adjacent to the plains. Primarily the aquifer is recharged by the Ngaruroro River. However, evidence shows that some Havelock North wells are recharged by the Tukituki River. The Tukituki River receives ‘treated’ sewage from the four wastewater treatment plants in Central Hawke’s Bay. – See more at: http://www.baybuzz.co.nz/archives/8221/#sthash.Qz4HgBbN.dpuf

    Stuijt emphasises that only in exceptional circumstances is water treatment needed, as most of our water comes from a depth of over 50 metres. Recently Havelock North experienced one of these ‘exceptional circumstances’ when the supply became contaminated by E.coli and a bore was shut down. It is confirmed that the aquifer in that area can become contaminated by old primary septic tank in-ground trenches which discharge over and into the Heretaunga Plains aquifer. The high rain fall experienced recently may have exacerbated this.

    This is the not the first time residents of Havelock North have had their drinking water supply contaminated. In the year 2011-2012 the annual drinking water survey confirmed that Havelock North had one of the highest number of E.coli transgressions in New Zealand, swiftly dealt with through chlorination. But chlorination (and many other forms of treatment) are ineffective in removing EOCs, which, combined with chlorine, can produce undesirable by-products.

    – See more at: http://www.baybuzz.co.nz/archives/8221/#sthash.Qz4HgBbN.dpuf

    EOC…..Emerging Organic Contaminant

    • weka 12.1

      thanks, that’s very interesting.

      “old primary septic tank in-ground trenches”

      Is that household septic tank overflows? How would that be getting down 50m?

    • dukeofurl 12.2

      That seems a good description.

      ” unconfined and confined aquifer system’ – so some parts are protected by impervious layer while others arent.
      My knowledge of the area has the gravels extend from the surface down, so what gets put on surface will filter down to the aquifer. And that doesnt take 50 years

      “Havelock North had one of the highest number of E.coli transgressions in New Zealand, swiftly dealt with through chlorination”

      Seems like the lack of full time chlorination is the real problem

      • RedLogix 12.2.1

        Not necessarily. In order to chlorinate safely it’s vital to remove all the organic contaminants first. Otherwise all you are doing is creating a whole cascade of chlorinated compounds many of which are well known and potent carcinogens.

        You can get away with it short-term in an emergency, but long-term exposure is completely against the NZDWS (NZ Drinking Water Standard) if there is going to be any consistent level of EOC’s in the raw supply. This always applies to raw water sourced from rivers flowing out of forested catchments, but is never considered necessary for anything sourced from a deep and aged aquifer.

        And in order to remove the all the potential organics Hastings DC might have to consider building relatively large and expensive treatment plants, which in the normal course of events would be very hard to justify. All up not an easy situation for the supply operators to manage.

  12. save nz 14

    What, You mean you want CLEAN water???

  13. Kevin 15

    Sounds to me like the bore IS contaminated. This from HBToday…

    “In a separate incident a private water tanker driver operator provided a positive indicator test to the DHB on Thursday from water taken from a Havelock North bore. He was told to dispose of the water and sanitise his tank, because the presumption was the bore water was clean.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503462&objectid=11694416

  14. weston 18

    Frankly im amazed anyone trusts the water coming out of a tap on town supply i sure wouldnt .Id get my own tank and even then id probably buy the stuff i was actually drinking .As well as septic tanks potentially contaminating groundwater theres offal holes often bored down to a considerable depth .In these offal pits go just about everything from “offal” as the name implies the guts of animals killed on the farm to domestic rubbish and all the general dettrius {yeah i know its spelt wrong }of the farming scene like old drench containers the horns from de horning maybe some wire old herbicide containers stuff they too scared to use anymore like ddt and 245t old paint dead calves and probably the odd wife or husband every so often .As far as i know just about every farm in nz has at least one of these and when shes full ya just pick up the phone and get a new one drilled mate .Im not really saying ALL farm offal pits are like this obviously im trying to be humorous about it but basicly its true and ive seen some shockers over the years .The moral of the story is as billy connolly put it DONT DRINK THE WATER .

    • “Dead holes”, as Weston describes, are frightening to behold and can contain nuts, bolts, rusted kerosene tins, Brodifacoum to keep the rat numbers down, downed rats, drowned rats (the water table rises into the dead hole, that’s the scary bit, forget the rats) diseased stock, out of date stock, you name it. The rules around dead holes are various and impossible to monitor in any effective way. Dead holes are awful pits, just as long drops are a sh*t solution to humanure disposal.

  15. Lloyd 19

    If it is contamination in the aquifer it would seem the recent rains have pushed the contamination down to a location where it is picked up by the bore. The bore itself would be the first suspect – how old is it? – is it steel? – is it rusted through? – is there potential for water to flow down into the aquifer beside the bore?
    If the contamination doesn’t come in via the bore it is likely the source isn’t too far away from the bore – ground filtration is pretty effective.
    A new bore might be the quickest and cheapest solution.

  16. Philj 20

    It’s so sad to say but we’re crapping in our own water. Portentous?

  17. Siobhan 21

    “Hastings Water Supply Now Chlorinated!

    An e-coli indicator has been found in one of the nine water tankers used to supply drinking water to Havelock North residents.The suspect tanker was parked in the Te Mata Primary School – Havelock North Intermediate School car park. Residents who took water from this site and still have it in containers are asked to dump it.The water from the other tankers has been tested and is clear, however the water in all the tankers is now being chlorinated.It is believed that the cause is likely to be the tanker, however as a “super precautionary approach” the water supplies for Hastings and Flaxmere are now being chlorinated. The daily tests for those supplies have been clear.While no boil water notice has been issued, as a precautionary approach, mayor Lawrence Yule says people may want to boil any drinking water or use bottled water while the chlorine works its way through the system.”

    From the Council this morning.

    Please spread the word Hastings folk.

  18. Rozgonz 22

    Surely in the eyes of the left this must be John Keys fault

  19. Muttonbird 23

    Cat’s out of the bag…

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/311415/campylobacter-most-likely-from-livestock-yule

    I’m surprised the government didn’t gag Yule on this. I’m sure they’ll want to minimise the damage done to the farming industry in the region.

    Anyway, is the interim report enough for those wanting to wait for further information, or will they wait for the inevitable government spin?

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