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Published: 2002-04-15 00:00:00

Contamination near Cambridge may be contributing to high bacterial counts in the Waikato River through Hamilton City, according to Environment Waikato.

The Council now has results of last weekend’s water testing and is looking into high counts just north of Cambridge. Resource Information Group Manager Tony Petch said the Council had identified problems in that area, and staff were investigating causes.

“We have been warning for some time – at least four to five years – that it is unsafe for swimming through the city from the Narrows north because of high microbiological counts. This is not a new issue.

“We have written to Hamilton City, Waikato District Council and Franklin District Council asking them to put up warning signs and we have been working on the wording of those signs with Franklin.”

He said Environment Waikato was responsible for the general environmental health of the river, and the Medical Officer of Health was responsible for the public health issues which might arise. Local authorities were responsible for erecting warning signs.

“Upstream of Cambridge the river is well within safe swimming standards. Further down stream the safe swimming standards were exceeded about 50 percent of the time. The test results show the combined effects of urban and rural sources. Urban sources include sewerage treatment systems and occasionally stormwater cross connections and blockages in the sewerage system, which the city is constantly investigating.

“We are addressing these issues by working with the city on stormwater management and investigating possible rural sources. The city has an active programme to reduce contamination from stormwater,” he said.

Other sources included rural runoff. Long term, the problem reinforced the need for sound riparian management in intensively farmed land.

“We take these issues seriously. We are working with farmers to exclude stock from waterways and improve water quality through riparian planting. Projects such as the Clean Streams Project are injecting money into riparian planting, and Project Watershed is addressing water quality and river management issues.”

He said the Council was getting stricter in the allowable amounts of contaminants under its Regional Plan, and was taking action on a number of fronts to achieve results.

“However we also recognise that it will take some time to combat this problem.”