UPDATE 9: All drinking water must be boiled in Martinborough until further notice

4.44pm, 7 February 2019 (delayed from 4pm for test results)

Following the boil water notice issued on Friday 1 February, South Wairarapa District Council continues to advise that all drinking water from the Martinborough town supply must be boiled before being used for drinking, making up formula, juices and ice, washing fruits and vegetables, other cooking needs, or brushing teeth.

Safe drinking water can now be collected 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.

The latest preliminary, post-chlorination test results for east of Todds Rd showed no positive alerts for E. coli. Other post-chlorination results reported this morning for samples taken at the reservoir, down the main pipe into town, at the school and New York Street, (i.e. west of Todds Rd) were also clear.

Increased sampling and testing of water within the network, in terms of frequency and the number of sites, is continuing. Clear tests are required on three consecutive days before the boil water notice can be lifted. In addition, an action plan to identify and mitigate all the risk points of contamination needs to be implemented to the satisfaction of Regional Public Health.

Council has been working with experts from Wellington Water to develop and implement this action plan since the beginning of the week. The water tanks are being superchorinated and scrubbed out one-by-one, so there is always water in case of a fire emergency; high-risk sites are being identified and checked; and the reservoirs will be emptied and thoroughly cleaned starting Friday.

Mayor Viv Napier says, “we’re not taking any chances with the risk of recontamination, and are being super-vigilant with increased testing and sampling.

“If we didn’t have the issue of high manganese in the water here, which turns the water blue/black when chlorine is added, we would have chlorinated the whole network by now. Chlorination is a sure-fire way to kill any bacteria but that would mean no water available for the town for the duration of the process. We’re hoping that the increased continued testing shows we have cleared the water for safe drinking,” 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.

The boil water notice will remain in place until daily testing shows three clear results on three consecutive days, and that the potential sites of recontamination have been mitigated to the satisfaction of Regional Public Health.

Next update: 2pm Friday 8 February, or earlier if required.


This is what we know so far:

– Late afternoon on 30 Jan, routine testing carried out at various sites around the water system showed a positive result for low levels of E. coli at Martinborough School, all other samples were clear.

– Within half an hour, Regional Public Health was contacted to discuss the course of action.

– In consultation with Regional Public Health, the school was advised to use an alternative water source as a precaution.

– Further samples were taken from around the system and sent for testing, and follow-up results received on 10am 31 Jan showed all the results were clear. This was communicated to the school and in a Facebook response.

– Continued testing showed a second low, positive result for the sample taken near the reservoir

– In conjunction with Regional Public Health, the Council issued a Boiled Water Notice (3pm 1 Feb) before confirmation of the result was received over the weekend.

– Results from the samples taken on Friday and Saturday morning showed no alerts for E. coli in the samples taken in the town but confirmed the low, positive result for E. coli for the sample taken near the reservoir.

– In consultation with Regional Public Health, the Council developed a plan to chlorine flush the reservoir area of the system East of Todds Rd.

– The chlorine disinfection of Todds Rd was completed 6.30pm on 4 February.

– Test results from the samples taken before the chlorine disinfection, confirmed low-level E. coli contamination of the reservoir as well as the water network east of Todd Rd. All results in the town were again clear.

– On 7 February, Council received clear test results for samples taken post-chlorination at the reservoir, and the main pipe into town, as well as at sites within the town. (Preliminary post-chlorination results for east of Todds Rd are also clear, but awaiting confirmation). These results suggest that chlorination has cleared the contamination; however there is ongoing work to identify the probable source of contamination to prevent this happening again.

– Currently reported levels 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.

How to boil water for drinking:

  • Boiling will kill all disease-causing organisms.
  • Bring water to a rolling boil (where bubbles appear in the centre and do not disappear when the water is stirred) for one minute or boil a full electric jug until it switches off
  • Cool water (do not use ice cubes to do this) and pour into clean container with a lid
  • Refrigerate until needed.

For more information, contact SWDC on 06 30 69611 at or visit swdc.govt.nz/martinborough-town-water-situation further information about this issue, including past updates, FAQ, and educational resources.

Media contact:

Amy Wharram, Communications Manager 027 252 2863

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