Are Christchurch City Councillors playing Russian roulette over drinking water?
The decision by Christchurch’s Mayor and Councillors to reject the advice of staff and vote against chlorinating the water supply to 80,000 households is putting residents at continued risk of illness, says Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert.
“It appears that this is a case of putting public relations before public health. It is interesting that the councillors voted to bring forward the decommissioning of shallow at-risk bores from June 2018 to March 2017 at a cost of an extra $480,000. And that they intend to embark on a programme to raise awareness of the risks of drinking untreated water from shallow bores.”
John Pfahlert says the councillors have clearly decided that they have got away with not chlorinating the shallow bores for a number of years now, so are prepared to continue to take the risk over the next few months.
“Not chlorinating water from shallow bores such as those in Christchurch is like driving without a safety belt. You may not have a crash, but if you do, the result will be way worse. We have to question whether this is a responsible decision.”
“We know that councillors are under pressure, often from very vocal groups of people who oppose adding chemicals to public water supplies but they also need to remember that, as Havelock North has shown us, there can be very severe consequences when the risk doesn’t pay off.”
For more information on the risks and benefits of chlorination, see our Water New Zealand factsheet produced as part of a series on drinking water quality in New Zealand.