Good to know Gisborne city water supply far more secure

EDITORIAL

The outbreak of gastroenteritis illnesses in Havelock North because of a contaminated water supply has shocked a district and the nation. It has also thrown a spotlight on the Gisborne system that is reassuring.

Local councillors were right to call for assurances after the disastrous situation in Hawke’s Bay, which has seen as many as 4700 people affected — a third of the Havelock North population.

They were assured the Gisborne water supply is absolutely safe by the officer who has the most experience with it, water utilities manager Neville West. In a calmly-voiced summation he accepted that water is a food source that cannot be recalled once it has reached the consumer.

It is for this reason that the Gisborne system is subject to a monitoring regime that presents a series of barriers the water passes through before it enters the city’s reticulation system. That includes online alarm systems with slam-shut procedures when the water is not compliant.

Qualified operators are available on a 24/7 basis, the bush catchment is switched off after heavy rain and, perhaps most importantly, the supply is chlorinated.

By contrast there were no such barriers in Havelock North, where the bulk of the supply was drawn from an aquifer.

Other major advantages of the Gisborne system are that if contamination is detected and the supply is turned off, reservoirs are large enough to meet demand for several days. There is the further back-up of the Waipaoa plant.

One great lesson to be learned from the Havelock North situation is the need to quickly inform consumers that their water is not safe. In this regard Gisborne has learned from its wastewater overflows into city rivers and now has better notification procedures.

Gisborne has been using the Te Arai bush area for its water supply since 1909 and the whole system was given a multimillion-dollar upgrade after the main pipeline was severed during Cyclone Bola.

No system would ever be 100 percent safe but Gisborne’s one appears to be as near to that as possible.

The outbreak of gastroenteritis illnesses in Havelock North because of a contaminated water supply has shocked a district and the nation. It has also thrown a spotlight on the Gisborne system that is reassuring.

Local councillors were right to call for assurances after the disastrous situation in Hawke’s Bay, which has seen as many as 4700 people affected — a third of the Havelock North population.

They were assured the Gisborne water supply is absolutely safe by the officer who has the most experience with it, water utilities manager Neville West. In a calmly-voiced summation he accepted that water is a food source that cannot be recalled once it has reached the consumer.

It is for this reason that the Gisborne system is subject to a monitoring regime that presents a series of barriers the water passes through before it enters the city’s reticulation system. That includes online alarm systems with slam-shut procedures when the water is not compliant.

Qualified operators are available on a 24/7 basis, the bush catchment is switched off after heavy rain and, perhaps most importantly, the supply is chlorinated.

By contrast there were no such barriers in Havelock North, where the bulk of the supply was drawn from an aquifer.

Other major advantages of the Gisborne system are that if contamination is detected and the supply is turned off, reservoirs are large enough to meet demand for several days. There is the further back-up of the Waipaoa plant.

One great lesson to be learned from the Havelock North situation is the need to quickly inform consumers that their water is not safe. In this regard Gisborne has learned from its wastewater overflows into city rivers and now has better notification procedures.

Gisborne has been using the Te Arai bush area for its water supply since 1909 and the whole system was given a multimillion-dollar upgrade after the main pipeline was severed during Cyclone Bola.

No system would ever be 100 percent safe but Gisborne’s one appears to be as near to that as possible.

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