Letters: A plea for some rational discussion

Thursday October 10, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor
To Tatou Vai chief executive Brent Manning, left, and GHD engineer David Sloan at the chlorine tank at Turangi water intake. 19100913 To Tatou Vai chief executive Brent Manning, left, and GHD engineer David Sloan at the chlorine tank at Turangi water intake. 19100913

It’s high time some rational objectivity was introduced to the debate around chlorination, given the current attitude of Te Vai Ora and their advocates to argue every point and deconstruct historical facts (“Anti-chloriners reject water as cause of 1964 gastro deaths”, October 8).

 

Whether as a direct result of drinking contaminated water two, three or nine people died as a result of gastro illnesses in 1964 isn’t the point.

There is plenty of much more recent evidence that the presence of micro-organisms and pathogens (disease-causing bugs) in drinking water supplies is dangerous because they can make people sick and/or die.

The 2016 campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North, an affluent community in New Zealand with water supplied by Hastings District Council, is a clear example.

The Council did not disinfect the Havelock North water. There, over 5,500 people became very sick, and up to three deaths (of elderly or vulnerable people) have been attributed to the water contamination, with the infective dose calculated to have arisen from as little as two teaspoonfuls of sheep droppings.

Schools and businesses closed for days and in some cases weeks, with a direct cost to the Council of around $5 million, and an estimated total cost to the community of $21 million.

The consequences of the of the Havelock North outbreak are fully set out in the two subsequent reports of the Government Inquiry. It has also since been the subject of discussion at international water conventions and conferences of water and public health professionals.

If you want to research further examples, in 2000 Walkerton in Canada suffered a waterborne outbreak from E. Coli O157:H7 contamination of their public water supply while community water chlorination was decommissioned.

And in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a US city with a population of over 1 million, a severe outbreak of cryptosporidiosis affected over 400,000 people. There were 69 deaths linked to the 1993 outbreak.

This by any standard makes the water on this island currently high-risk for public health.

Quite apart from any debate about what, if anything, should be done to disinfect the water and, if so, what is the best option, the simple fact is the water is not safe to drink without boiling or treatment and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

Brent Manning
Chief executive
To Tatou Vai Ltd

Leave a comment