UPDATE 12: All drinking water must be boiled in Martinborough until further notice

4.14pm, 12 February 2019 (little new information)

Eleven days ago, South Wairarapa District Council issued a boil water notice to users of the town water supply. This was following a contamination event, which yesterday Council learned was most likely due to a temporary malfunction of the UV disinfection system following a power failure, during the night of 23/24 January. The UV system has been working well since 24 January and work is being done to ensure the malfunction does not reoccur in the future.

Martinborough water supply is not chlorinated because the naturally high-level of manganese reacts with chlorine, turning it a blue/black colour. Instead the water is UV disinfected after it comes out of the bore and before it enters the system. UV disinfection, when it is working properly, is effective in killing 99.9% of bacteria.

Because the whole water supply has not been chlorinated, there is still a risk that contaminated water remains within the water supply system. It is therefore important that users continue to boil for drinking, making up formula, juices and ice, washing fruits and vegetables, other cooking needs, or brushing teeth.

Safe drinking water continues to be available to the public from the emergency water bladders behind the Waihinga Centre, outside the Wharekaka aged-care home, Martinborough School, the golf club and rugby club. The bladders will stay in place until the boil water notice is lifted.

Council is working closely with Wellington Water to implement the response plan to get the boil water notice lifted. This includes coordinating efforts to thoroughly clean the reservoirs, which is almost finished, and flush water throughout the whole water pipe network. The timing of the flushing, and what it means for residents, will be communicated later this week. Because it is likely that network flushing will cause some discolouration of the water, residents may need to run taps until the water runs clear.

Experts have also been systematically checking the water supply network for all possible sources of contamination – the bore; the treatment plant; the pipe supply network; through to the reservoirs. This work includes checking all the backflow mechanisms on private connections to the water network. Any potential issues are being addressed as they go. All this is taking some time but is essential, along with three clear test results on three consecutive days once all the work is complete, to give confidence to the Council and Regional Public Health that the boil water notice can be lifted.

Mayor Viv Napier says “we, again, apologise for the inconvenience caused to the people and businesses of Martinborough.

“If you are aware of any elderly or frail neighbours who may need an update on the water situation, or who may need help gaining access to safe drinking water, please offer your assistance or contact Council so we can help,” says Ms Napier.

The risk of getting sick from drinking the water during the period leading up to the notice being issued is low but possible, especially for vulnerable people. Babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people who have weakened immune systems would have been more at risk of illness. If you develop an illness with diarrhoea, vomiting and/or a fever, and are concerned about your health, get advice from your doctor or contact Healthline (0800 611 116).  Any illnesses developing after a three-week period are unlikely to be related to drinking potentially contaminated water.

Regional Public Health has reported that the level of illness are not above that expected at this time of year. Wairarapa DHB has reported no presentations at ED in association with this event.

Next update: when required

Previous updates, how the situation unfolded, FAQs and educational resources are available on our website at swdc.govt.nz/Martinborough-town-water-situation


Media contact

Amy Wharram 027 252 2863

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