Authorities say no chlorine has been released into the water supply network.
In the past week, water authority To Tatou Vai, the Prime Minister’s Office and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown had all insisted there was no chlorine in the country yet.
Brown last week assured the Cook Islands News that no chlorine had been purchased. “We haven’t gone through the procurement process,” he said. “We don’t even have the chemicals here for the sedimentation ponds.”
In fact, it was purchased by April – and officials now admit they had not even told Brown.
Last night, Brown said he had been talking about water disinfection, and he did not expect to be briefed on chlorine shipped in for the pipeline contractors.
Financial secretary Garth Henderson also said he would not expect to brief the minister on “such a relatively small technical detail”.
Cook Islands News has obtained the full government tender document seeking supply of water treatment chemicals. The document, dated May 2, states “an initial ‘one-off’ supply of these chemicals had been secured for operation under the Te Mato Vai project.”
This week the government’s Project Management Unit confirmed disinfection chemicals (calcium hypochlorite and polyaluminium chloride) had been procured by pipeline construction agency Te Mato Vai, and were being held in a secure facility.
Anti-chlorination group Te Vai Ora Maori chairperson Ana Rasmussen criticised the government for keeping the public in the dark.
“It shows there is no transparency in government. It shows the government has lied to us,” Rasmussen said. “We demand them to be honest with the people they represent. This makes the issue political, what we want is a proper negotiation and transparency in this matter.”
Henderson said the chemicals has been provided to the contractor for the purposes of commissioning and testing the filtration and potential disinfection systems for Te Mato Vai project.
At no stage during this commissioning process would the public be provided with disinfected or chlorinated water as all testing would be offline.
“This is normal, established construction contract practice that ensures that the government can be confident that the Te Mato Vai project will function properly and reliably in the future.”
According to the tender documents, government is seeking 75 to 100 tonnes of polyaluminum chloride and 8 to 10 tonnes of calcium hypochlorite, annually, to disinfect Rarotonga’s water – a contract valued at $350,000 to $500,000.
The Prime Minister put the tender process on ice last week, pending Cabinet sign-off for chlorine disinfection expected later this month