The group, Vai Ora’anga Ora (water of life), is advocating clean, safe water. It is opposing chemical disinfection of water.
The Te Mato Vai project management unit has recommended chlorination as the most suitable disinfection option for Rarotonga, but said the government would make the final decision.
And earlier this month, deputy prime minister Mark Brown told Parliament that they would not hesitate to use chlorination if it was scientifically proven to be the best of all the options.
Vai Ora’anga Ora comprises 11 concerned residents: Anna Rasmussen, Tere Carr, Teina and Jackie Rongo, Justine Flanagan and Andy Kirkwood, Paul Allsworth, Phillip Nicholas, Robert Wigmore, Donna Smith and Teariki Matenga.
The group said all they wanted was clean, safe water – but chlorine was not the solution.
“Our government has told us we need to add chlorine because our water is 'bad'. But we're not sick. Our Vairakau Maori practitioners are clear – chemicals are not for human consumption.”
World-wide, researchers were questioning the impact of chlorine on health – on digestion, immunity, and fertility, they said. Chemicals were absorbed rapidly through the skin and lungs, and chlorine was more toxic at warmer temperatures.
“The long-term risks include an increase in birth defects and cancer. These long term risks will be inherited by our children.”
The group cited the US Council on Environmental Quality, claiming it had found the cancer risk to people who drank chlorinated water was 93 per cent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.
“Here in Rarotonga less than a per cent is used for drinking, but all of our water supply will be chlorinated which will affect our land, waterways and our lagoon,” the group said.
“We’ve been told ‘it's only a small amount of chlorine’. But that ‘small amount’ is enough to kill. And chlorine doesn’t just kill bacteria, it’s strong enough to kill our tuna, our koura vai.
“Broken pipes leak into our streams, wetlands, lagoon and ocean. We are the custodians of these fragile ecosystems and the world we pass on to our children. Chlorine kills the microbes that keep plants healthy. That means less local fruit-and-vege and more pesticides. Organic export crops cannot be irrigated with toxic chemicals. Vanilla and noni growers are affected.”
Brent Manning, the chief executive officer of To Tatou Vai, said they would release a joint statement with the health ministry and Te Mato Vai project management unit on this new group next week.
Does chlorine cause cancer?
The anti-chlorine group Vai Ora’anga Ora cites the US Council on Environmental Quality, claiming it had found the cancer risk to people
who drank chlorinated water was 93 per cent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.
In fact, the Council’s report was referring only to the less-common rectal cancer, which was between 13 and 93 per cent more common in people who drank chlorinated water.
The Council’s report also stressed that chlorine itself was not the likely culprit, but rather, organic compounds like chloroform that form when chlorine combined with natural and man-made organic material such as fertilisers, often also in rural supplies.
The Council found the increased risk of rectal cancer was outweighed by the lives saved by eliminating water-borne infections.
“Chlorine almost single handedly relegated water-borne diseases to the bottom of the list of causes of death in this country,” said Robert Harris, a member of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Not using chlorine is not the issue. We can use it in a less risky way.”