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Havelock North water was 'young'

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/11/2016

Water in aquifers in Hawke's Bay where people became ill was "young", according to a report by scientists.

More than 5000 people were hit by gastrointestinal illness when Havelock North's drinking water became contaminated by E.coli and campylobacter in August.

Older water is regarded as safe as organisms can't survive in the ground in water that has been there for 30 to 50 years.

In the past, Hastings District Council has supplied untreated water in part because of its older age.

Mayor Lawrence Yule says a report on the age of drinking water released on Friday raises a number of questions about the management of the aquifers in the region.

The report has been prepared for the council by GNS Science and a copy has been sent to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

The report is based on water samples taken in May 2016, three months before people became sick.

"These latest test results show a significant proportion of young water in samples drawn from the Brookvale and Wilson Road (Flaxmere) bores, and point to possible young water being drawn from the Frimley Bore.

"In Brookvale, for example, the youngest water is just over a month old. This has the potential to introduce bacteria into the water source," Mr Yule says.

The results may make it difficult for the council to classify its aquifer water as secure under drinking water standards.

The scientists did not think the young water in the samples could have been caused by a leak or fault in the bores themselves.

The core Heretaunga Plains aquifer still provides pure, clean water, but the results of the report will be of interest to a number of parties, Mr Yule says.

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