Important Update Regarding Temuka Water Supply

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Published: 20 Dec 2017

20/12/17

Just a quick note that we're getting reports of people going door to door in Temuka wanting to 'talk to people about their water'.
Please note that these people are not TDC contractors, nor acting in any way connected to the council. Our assumption is that they are possibly selling water filter systems.

16/12/17

Just a reminder that we’ll be shutting off the water from 7pm on Sunday as we start the work to install the new filtration system for Temuka. Everything going to plan the water should be back as normal by 7am on Monday.

- Alternative drinking water will be available from the tank at the Temuka LIbrary and Service centre.

- Our customer services team is available 24/7 on 687 7200 if you have any issues (other than your water not going)

- There will be dissolved in the water for a little while after we turn the system back on. It’s not harmful and will clear in a few moments if you just leave the water sitting for a bit.

Update 6 14/12/17 – 1230

Timaru District Council is beginning work to install the temporary water filter plant to the Temuka water system this coming Sunday night, and is imposing Level 5 water restrictions from today.

They are also reiterating that even prior to the installation the water is still safe to drink and use normally.
The filtration plant, which will be a short term solution to remove most of the asbestos, will be installed onto the water main that feeds the town, bypassing a small section of the pipe closest to town. The positioning of the plant was based on samples taken from the water scheme over the past week.

Installation of the plant will require a total shut down of the temuka water supply overnight on Sunday for six to eight hours. This means that water in the town will be unavailable during the works.

The filter, which will be brought on-stream on Tuesday, will be effective in reducing the amount of asbestos present in the water, but this comes at the cost of a slight reduction in water pressure. This means that from today a Level 5 Water Restriction will be in place across Temuka.

This means a total hosing ban - no hose or sprinkler system may be used. You may carry water using a bucket, watering can or similar. Commercial users are also required to achieve water savings.

Ashley Harper, Group Manager Infrastructure, said that the team is pleased to have been able to put this temporary solution in place so quickly, giving them more time focus on a longer term solution.

“This is fairly significant engineering task, and we’re pleased that our staff, contractors and advisors have been able to work to get it on stream so quickly.

“Our whole team is working hard to get this issue sorted, but we now need the support of the community to ensure this temporary solution works.

“The community needs to ensure they conserve water where they can. This means no outdoor water use, no sprinkers and no hoses. Buckets and watering cans are okay, but we’d ask you to think carefully before using them.

“If the community supports the need to follow these water restrictions, everyone in the town should have reasonable water pressure while this plant is running.”

Asbestos is considered safe in water, so there is no international level. The American EPA considers a high level for long term exposure to be 7 million fibres per litre. Preliminary results from samples from Temuka so far have all tested under the 500,000 fibres per litre mark.

A self-serve supply of water will continue to be made available during Library and Service Centre opening hours to those who wish to use it. It is at the Temuka Library and Service Centre car park.

Update 5 13/12/17 – 1800

Timaru District Council is continuing to work to clear Temuka water supplies, and will be installing a temporary filtration plant for the whole town’s supply before Christmas.

They are also reiterating that the water in Temuka is safe to drink and use normally.

The first two days testing results have shown a decline in the amount of asbestos in the water, we’re now awaiting Friday’s results to confirm that trend.

Asbestos is considered safe in water, so there is no international level. The American EPA considers a high level for long term exposure to be 7 million fibres per litre. Preliminary results from samples from Temuka so far have all tested under the 500,000 fibres per litre mark.

Ashley Harper, Group Manager Infrastructure, said that they‘re currently finalising the necessary testing on the filtration equipment to identify the correct filter size, so that the plant can handle the flow rates require to service a town the size of Temuka.

“This option will remove most of the materials from the water in the short term to enable us to work on a long term solution to the issue.

“However a filter of this type does have an impact on water flow rates, so we need the community to support us by stopping all outdoor water usage.

“Early provisional results from our testing of the water seems to showing a decline in the amount in the system, we’re hoping this continues, but we’re going to go ahead with the filtering plant in the interim while we continue work on a long term solution.”

With the installation of the filter plant, Temuka will be put straight onto Level  5 water restrictions, this means a total hosing ban - no hose or sprinkler system may be used. You may carry water using a bucket, watering can or similar. Commercial users are also required to achieve water savings.

A self-serve supply of water will continue to be made available during Library and Service Centre opening hours to those who wish to use it. It is at the Temuka Library and Service Centre car park.

ENDS

The Government of Western Australia has produced information regarding asbestos in drinking water, it can be accessed here: http://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Asbestos-in-drinking-water

Media Contact:
Stephen Doran, Communications Manager
stephen.doran@timdc.govt.nz / 027 202 7784 / 03 687 7456

Update 4 11/12/17 – 1730

Timaru District Council is continuing to work to clear Temuka water supplies, while working on short, medium and long term solutions to the issue.

They are also reiterating that the water in Temuka is safe to drink and use normally.

Ashley Harper, Group Manager Infrastructure, says that with a complex problem such as this, it’s important that they attack it from every angle.

“Our sampling throughout the town is confirming our initial thoughts of where the material is coming from, so we’re focusing on that. It also increases the number of options we have to put short term measures in place.

“This may include the temporary installation of a filtering plant, which would remove most materials from the water, but would cause a significant drop in water pressure.

“We’re bringing pipe composition experts in this week to review that we’re heading in the right direction and to ensure we’re not missing anything that could be done to help.

“We’re also sending away daily samples to a specialist lab in Wellington to corroborate this finding. Hopefully this will show that what we’re doing is working, but in the interim we continue to look at the medium and long term fixes for the issue.”

Dr Daniel Williams, South Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Community and Public Health reassured the public around the risk of breathing in asbestos fibres left behind once water content had evaporated.

“I understand that people in Temuka are concerned about breathing in asbestos fibres left behind after they’ve used tap water for washing clothes or watering gardens,” he said.

“While we are still waiting for test results measuring just how much asbestos is in the water in Temuka, international studies have not shown any link between asbestos levels in tap water and asbestos-related lung disease.

Both the World Health Organisation and our Ministry of Health advise that the presence of asbestos in water doesn’t make it unsafe to drink or to use for washing and showering.

There’s no reason not to carry on using the water however if people prefer to use an alternative supply, the Council is providing one.”

Dr Williams highlighted that while it is always better to reduce your exposure to asbestos, we are all exposed to asbestos in many ways, including in building materials, brake linings and at home.

“Asbestos in water does increase the amount of asbestos in the environment, but that’s still likely to be at very low levels compared to the workplace exposures that most often cause disease,” he said.

“Almost all asbestos-related disease in New Zealand has been linked to constant heavy exposure to asbestos dust at work or during intensive DIY home renovation.”

A supply of water will continue to be made available to those who wish to use it. It is at the Temuka Library and Service Centre car park.

Update 7/12/17

Residents in Temuka are being reminded that their water is safe to drink following the confirmation that there is asbestos in the water.

Mayor Damon Odey says that all professional advice the council has received says that this causes no harm to people drinking or washing with the water, but the council is continuing to work to clear the system.

“The best expert advice is that there is no risk to health from ingesting asbestos, however this doesn’t mean that this is a desirable situation, so we’ve now got all hands on the pump to help resolve this as quickly as possible.”

Ashley Harper, Timaru District Council Group Manager Infrastructure said that they have all the drinking water team focused on the issue and are bringing in outside experts to help tackle it.

“Using flow diagrams, the reports from the public and our knowledge of how the system works we’ve been able to identify the most likely area where the issue is occurring,” he said.

“We’re now bringing in specialist detection services to check the pipe in this area to see if there are any issues within it, which we can then repair.

“Our team is also working to flush the system by opening hydrants in a controlled manner throughout the day, this is also aimed at lessening the amount of material in the system.

“We take pride in having a safe water supply for all our communities. That water continues to be fully treated with UV and chlorine and has been meeting drinking water standards. Although this is not a safety issue it’s not a desirable one either, so we’re working hard to resolve it.”

Council water teams have identified the most likely source of the problem is a length of AC pipe connecting the water treatment plant to the town. This was previously checked in a routine quality test two years ago, which said it had 20 years of life left.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Daniel Williams said that asbestos is a natural mineral-based substance that was used widely in the past in building and infrastructure, including cement pipes.

“Asbestos fibres are tiny and hard, and if they’re breathed into the lungs they can cause disease.

“There has been extensive research into communities with asbestos in their drinking water, along with numerous animal studies, and they have not demonstrated any health effects of swallowing asbestos.

“Together, this research provides strong reassurance that asbestos is not harmful when swallowed.

“Asbestos cement pipes were often used in water distribution systems in the past, so it’s not uncommon for there to be some asbestos in tap water.

“Asbestos is hazardous when it’s dry and inhaled. However, the presence of asbestos fibres in drinking water doesn’t pose a hazard for people drinking the water or using it for washing or showering.

“People should dispose of any fibrous material carefully, as advised by Timaru District Council.”

People with low pressure or blocked taps are being asked to call the council on 03 687 7200 or call their local plumber. Local plumbers have been briefed on the issue.

Those who have removed the material should keep it wet, double bag it and drop it at Temuka Transfer station for safe disposal.

ENDS

The Government of Western Australia has produced information regarding asbestos in drinking water, it can be accessed here: http://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Asbestos-in-drinking-water

6/12/17

We have been advised today that the initial testing of samples from Friday has identified the presence of Asbestos in the water supply in Temuka, but we have expert medical advice that it is safe.

Advice from the Ministry of Health and the Medical Officer of Health has advised Timaru District Council that the water is safe for all purposes, including drinking.

Asbestos is common in drinking water, there is no evidence that it is harmful to health if ingested.

Daniel Williams, South Canterbury Medical officer for Health said: “Asbestos cement pipes were often used in water distribution systems in the past, so it’s not uncommon for there to be some asbestos in tap water.

“Asbestos is hazardous when it’s dry and inhaled. However, the presence of asbestos fibres in drinking water doesn’t pose a hazard for people drinking the water or using it for washing or showering.

“People should dispose of any fibrous material carefully, as advised by Timaru District Council.”

Timaru District Council is currently undertaking further testing to confirm the samples, and is continuing work to completely flush out the system and investigations of the water network are ongoing.

Despite the fact the water is considered safe by health authorities, for those who are still concerned we will be providing a tanker of drinking water for filling small containers at the Temuka Library and Service Centre on King Street until 9pm tonight and from 7am tomorrow.

We are advising those who have been unblocking their filters to instead contact the council or their plumber for advice. We are currently advising all the local plumbers for the situation.

Any material previously removed should be wetted and double bagged while wearing gloves. This can be taken to the Temuka transfer station for disposal at no cost from tomorrow at 7.30am

The small amount of white fibre in the water was thought most likely to be plant material, but this was sent off for precautionary testing by ESR. Initial reports back today suggest this asbestos, further in-depth testing is undertaking.

“We are taking this matter extremely seriously and will be working on the problem until it is resolved,” said Timaru District Mayor, Damon Odey.

“Community safety is our number one concern so we have proactively sought advice on this from health authorities and we are assured that the water in Temuka is safe for normal consumption and use.”

Further updates will be provided at 9am Tomorrow.

Last updated: 06 Nov 2019