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Murky water causes stir in township

By Beckie Wilson

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Pirinoa people are calling for better communication from South Wairarapa District Council over their water supply.

Difficulties with the water supply leaves homes without water for up to two days at a time, and is sometimes not drinkable, containing sediment with a yellow tinge, or a black-reddish colour.

The community’s water supply comes from a bore and feeds about 10 properties, including Pirinoa school, public toilets, the township’s shop and the hall. Leaks have been appearing in past months resulting in the water being turned off for maintenance to be done.

Some residents are concerned with the maintenance of the pump and tank but more frustrated with the lack of notice about when water will be cut off and why.

Pauline and Barry Hooper have lived in Pirinoa for about 13 years. Mr Hooper maintained the system for many year but when the council took over the operation in 2009, contractors replaced him. Mrs Hooper said when her husband was in charge there were very few issues, but over the past six months the water that comes out of the tap is undrinkable.

“I would like to see it maintained properly…just lately the water hasn’t been clearing,” she said.

“To me you get used to dealing with the problem, but now the problem is the water is dirty. The council are aware of it and it’s pretty frustrating when you don’t get listened to.”

If there is an issue after hours, a contractor doesn’t come out to assess it until the next morning, which it too late, she said.

In 1995 a treatment plant was installed to provide a safe water supply for the area where water was hard to come by. The community ran the scheme with a maintenance roster, and the council carried out the monitoring.

Then in 2009 after several meetings, it became clear the maintenance was being done by one resident. Then the council took over the plant with the community still owning it. Since then various upgrades have been done.

Rachel Fenwick and her family moved to Pirinoa on November 20, since then the water has been turned off about twice a week without warning.

Mrs Fenwick said her concern was not knowing in advance about water cuts.

After many calls to the council for answers she was told there had been leaks all year, and the water cuts were to allow tanks to refill.

She has a medical condition that requires 24hour access to a flushing toilet, but is rarely told when water would be turned back on.

“They should be informing us, it’s not good waking up in the morning to put the jug on and there’s no water.

“We get no notification that the water is getting turned off, better communication from the council to residents [is needed].”

Katrina Baird has lived in Pirinoa for three years and said the water system isn’t great but the past three months have been the worst.

“At times it seems nice and clear but often there’s no water with no notice, they really need to tell us,” she said.

“We are getting our water turned off a few times a week and we have no idea who looks after it.”

When the water is turned off it “comes out with a hell of a gush and is brown, disgusting, ugly water.”wta201216suppirinoa01

The water being turned off has resulted in the school having to close as toilets cannot be used.

Lawrence Stephenson, SWDC assets and operations manager, said part of the problem is the system is old with the failure of some pumps affecting water levels, resulting in solids and minerals being filtered back into the system.

“When we have issues we will send out flyers, but it seems unfortunate that some people have been missed when flyers are dropped off,” he said.

Most of the time he tries to phone some residents when there is an issue.

“We need to have a meeting in the early next year about what they [residents] want to do with the system,” he said.

Mark Allingham, SWDC infrastructure and services manager, has been involved with the Pirinoa water system since the council took over the operation of the plant in 2009.

“If we have to go buy a new pump then the cost is split across the ratepayers affected,” he said.

“We need to make a long-term decision sometime soon.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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