Water being flushed from Martinborough’s water mains last week, ahead of temporary chlorination which started yesterday. The black colour of the water was an indication the cleaning process has been successful, South Wairarapa District Council says. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Martinborough’s boil water notice to be lifted by the end of the week
Trouble for winemakers

STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

Chlorination of Martinborough’s water supply started after 5pm last night with wineries handling an “excruciatingly tight” deadline to manage what could have been a devastating change.

The move means the town could finally be free of its boil water notice by Thursday.

Once chlorination is under way, Regional Public Health is expected to allow the boil water notice to be lifted after three days of clear tests for E.coli, acting South Wairarapa District Council chief executive Jennie Mitchell said.

“Everyone will be delighted, including us [the council],” she said.

Chlorine in water is disastrous for wine production, reacting with a micro-organism to produce a chemical that makes wine unsaleable, but the secretary of the Wairarapa Winegrowers Association, Tania DeJonge, said winemakers were ready.

About 15 winery sites, producing more than 40 brands and labels are affected. Carbon filters can remove chlorine but not all winemakers are taking that step immediately.

“Our winemakers have plans in place to deal with chlorination,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean they are all going to be dechlorinating their water.

“Some are hanging up their tools until they have the correct solution.”

But wine production would not be interrupted, DeJonge said, with grapes now harvested and wine already in barrels.

A small number of wineries have installed carbon filters, with others using stored rainwater.

She said there had been virtually daily conversations with the council about preparations for chlorination, but timeframes had been challenging.

“Our winegrowers have told me the timing has been excruciatingly tight – they would have preferred another two weeks.”

An emergency council meeting after Easter set yesterday’s date after last-minute discussions with Regional Public Health, which wanted chlorination to start immediately.

DeJonge said chlorination, and its effect on the wine industry, had been a “hugely significant” issue.

“Without wine, Martinborough would not be the place it is.”

At the meeting, winemakers asked for financial assistance from the council to assess what filtering systems were required for each operation, but Mitchell said it was not possible to fund filters.

“We are not able to contribute to the installation of filters for the wineries but we have offered interest-free loans for winemakers.”

About six winemakers are understood to have taken up the offer of loans

The council has posted questions and answers about chlorination on its website. Mitchell said residents may notice a difference in taste and odour after chlorination.

While the chlorination is a temporary measure, it is unlikely Regional Public Health will allow it to be stopped until the source of the E.coli contamination is found.

Council officers at the emergency meeting made it clear this would difficult, with back-flow from any connection in the network a potential source, with multiple sources possible.

Mitchell has said the public would be consulted before any decision to make chlorination a permanent solution.