E. coli finding prompts chlorination of Hastings water

  • 18/08/2016
(Adrien Taylor / Newshub.)
(Adrien Taylor / Newshub.)

The water supply for Hastings is being chlorinated as a safety measure after an 'E. coli indicator' was found in water supplied to nearby Havelock North on Thursday morning.

The tanker was one of nine sent to Havelock North from Hastings after a major gastro bug outbreak, which came from the Hawke's Bay town's water supply.

The tanker that revealed indications of E. coli in testing was parked at Havelock North High School. Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule says the official results of tests will be available on Friday.

Initially Hastings District Council had said in its Facebook post the tanker was at the carpark of Te Mata School, but soon made the correction.

"Residents who took water from this site and still have it in containers are asked to dump it," Hastings District Council said in a post on Facebook on Thursday morning.

Havelock North High School principal Greg Fenton says his students had a lucky escape.

"Students haven't had to take water from the tanker this morning - they've been able to access bottles from one of the pallets. We're happy with that in terms of being able to provide them with fresh drinking water."

"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 council said. "The daily tests for those supplies have been clear."

Newshub spoke to one student who's been drinking water from the tanker all week without any problems.

Secondary schools in Havelock North reopened on Thursday, but only for students who have been free of symptoms of gastric illness for the past 48 hours.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has today confirmed there will be a Government-initiated independent Inquiry into the Havelock North water contamination issue.

"The situation in Havelock North is concerning. It is important that the public has confidence in their water supply," says Dr Coleman.

"To ensure we have a clear understanding of what has happened in Havelock North as well as any learnings from the situation, the Government will launch an independent Inquiry.

"This approach has been agreed between the Government and Hastings District Council as the best way forward."

The Inquiry will be undertaken under the Inquiries Act 2013. This will ensure that it follows a clear statutory process and will have a range of powers such as the ability to call witnesses.

"The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are still to be confirmed. The Inquiry will look at the events surrounding the outbreak and the response, as well as consider any wider systemic issues," says Dr Coleman.

"This will be a wide-ranging Inquiry to ensure that all New Zealanders can feel confident about the quality of drinking water supplies.

"This has been a difficult time for many. It is important that people continue to follow the advice of health professionals. That means boiling water and if you or someone in your family is unwell, call Healthline on 0800 611 116."

On Monday, Cabinet will consider the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry. Details on the exact form and membership of the Inquiry team will be decided shortly.