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Emergency water tanks in position

A resident takes water from a bladder in Martinborough on loan from Wellington Water. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Martinborough awaits results of E.coli testing
Close-knit community comes together

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Martinborough parents were being told to give their children boiled water to take to school yesterday ahead of further testing to ascertain whether the town’s water supply is contaminated by E.coli bacteria.

A boil notice was put in place for the town by South Wairarapa District Council on Friday, but there are no reports of illness caused by E.coli.

There was a widespread outbreak of gastroenteritis in Havelock North in August 2016 during which more than 5000 people were estimated to have fallen ill, with up to four deaths associated with the outbreak.

The council said the first routine sample showing low-level E-coli bacteria contamination was found at a sample site at Martinborough on Wednesday afternoon and the school was advised to use an alternative water source while a further test was carried out.

The further tests came back clear at 10am on Thursday, but ongoing testing then showed a second sample with a low-level positive near the golf course.

It was then decided a boil notice should be in place ahead of 25,000 people arriving for the Martinborough Fair.

A dozen emergency water tanks were put in place in the town for the fair and a water tanker with 20,000 litres was stationed at the corner of Cork and Strasbourge streets for residents to use on Saturday.

The council has borrowed two 5000 litre bladders with taps from Wellington Water to provide the public with water, and these are in the shade of a tree outside at the Waihinga Centre.

Officials were to have a difficult call yesterday.

“At this point we don’t know if there is a problem but we can’t guarantee there isn’t because we have had two in completely different places,” said council’s group manager infrastructure Mark Allingham.

“We now need more testing across the whole system.”

He had no idea of where the source of any contamination might be.

“The hard part is we don’t even know if there is a problem. We do get false positives in the system and they can be from sampling error, through to spiders crawling up through the tap we took the sample from.

“But until we get the rest of the results back we won’t know the extent of the issue.”

The council was looking at getting emergency water supplies to schools if they didn’t already have them, he said.

He praised the response of residents, public health officials, water suppliers and Wellington Water.

“It’s pretty close-knit community especially with the Martinborough Fair that was on.

“Everyone was working well together for the fair so when this happened the fair organisers and the businesses have been exceptionally good throughout.

“We went to do a letter drop on Friday night and we had random local people and people from the community boards just getting handfuls of leaflets and just handing them out. There was almost a viral community response which really helped.”

He said he was talking to the fair organisers within half an hour of the decision for a boiled-water notice on 3pm on Friday.

“We gave them a map and they located where the water points should be,” he said.

The boil notice advises all drinking water in Martinborough must be boiled before being used for drinking, making up formula, juices and ice, washing fruits and vegetables, other cooking needs, or brushing teeth.

The risk of getting sick from drinking the water is low but possible, especially for vulnerable people. Babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people who have weakened immune systems are more at risk of illness.

Anyone suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and/or a fever should get advice from their doctor or contact Healthline (0800 611 116).

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