Dunedin City Council providing free fruit and veg as lead water contamination scare continues


Free fruit and vegetables will be on offer for the Otago residents whose water supply is contaminated with lead.

The Dunedin City Council said in a media release it would supply a range of produce to people living in Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury, until the potential effects of eating home-grown vegetables irrigated with the water was clear.

Council chief executive Sandy Graham said: "This is a very worrying time for residents in these communities and it's important we do what we can to help at a practical level while we continue working towards finding the cause of the contamination."

Free produce would be available from Tuesday until Friday at the East Otago Events Centre, when the facility was open for blood testing.

The no-drink water notice for Waikouaiti and Karitane remained in place and water tankers were providing safe drinking water.

The next set of water test results would be available on Tuesday, Graham said.

The council first detected elevated lead levels in Waikouaiti's water supply last August.

But the public were not told anything until Tuesday. At the time of its announcement the council said a test sample taken on 8 December showed a lead level four times the permitted level.

Two days later it emerged that the level in the water was almost 40 times the acceptable level.

More than 500 residents expressed their frustrations to officials from the city council and Southern DHB at a heated meeting on Friday night.

Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison said some of the hostility started to subside when questions were addressed.

The council would provide staff to offer assistance and answer questions at the same time as tankers were dispensing water.

It was also planning to set up a drop-in centre at the Waikouaiti Library from 15 February so residents could speak to staff about their concerns.

While the source of the contamination was still not known, lead joins in older pipes, environmental contamination in the wider catchment, or even sampling errors, were all potential causes of the spikes in lead which led to the "no drink" water notice being issued, the council said.

Work to dig up and check the condition of some sections of old cast iron water pipes in Waikouaiti had almost finished. Five sections of pipeline across the area, including a section in Edinburgh Street, were being assessed.

Where lead joins had been used the council planned to replace those sections in the near future to remove the potential source of contamination from the network.