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E. coli levels in Taieri River near Waipiata drop

Media Release - 24 January 2014

The latest Otago Regional Council sampling of water quality in the Taieri River near Waipiata indicates that previously high concentrations of E.coli bacteria have dropped to low levels (around 260 cfu/100ml).

ORC and Public Health South say that while this is reassuring, people considering swimming in the affected area between Waipiata township and the Creamery Road bridge should hold off in the meantime pending further testing.

ORC staff are continuing to monitor water quality in the area, but remain baffled as to the cause of the high levels despite extensive inspections, director of engineering, hazards, and science Gavin Palmer said.

“Our monitoring this week has included observing tributaries feeding the Taieri from Gimmerburn and Wedderburn. Samples were analysed from these surrounding areas and all of the readings came back low for E.coli,” Dr Palmer said.

“While these latest results are reassuring, warning signs we have put up at popular swimming spots in the area will stay in place until at least two more weekly rounds of sampling confirm that the water is safe for people to swim in.”

Public Health South Medical Officer of Health Dr Derek Bell endorsed ORC’s decision to keep warning signs in place at the contaminated swimming spots.

“While it is good news that the E.coli levels have dropped, there is still some residual health risk and the potential for people to become ill if they are swimming and swallow the water,” Dr Bell said.

“Until we can confirm that the river is safe to swim in, we recommend people continue to avoid the affected areas.”

Anyone experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhoea from having swum in or swallowed contaminated water should contact their GP, Dr Bell said.

To find out when the water is safe to swim in, contact ORC or visit www.orc.govt.nz

For more information contact

Dr Gavin Palmer
ORC Director engineering, hazards and science
Ph 03 474 0827 or 0274 933 960

Frederique Gulcher
Communications Advisor
Southern District Health Board
Ph 03 450 9157 or 027 520 9965

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