Four more weeks: QLDC provides boil water update

by Kim Bowden - Nov 14, 2023

Queenstown's boil water notice is expected to remain in place for at least another four weeks, as the council makes plans to empty and clean its water supply system to rid it of any hidden traces of cryptosporidium.

In a written statement today the Queenstown Lakes District Council provides an update on progress to bring its non-compliant Two Mile water treatment plant up to standard, saying it is working towards an all-clear for tap water for the week of Monday, December 11.

Thousands of households and businesses have already spent two months living with the notice that advises tap water be boiled for more than one minute to ensure it is safe.

Council infrastructure boss Tony Avery says the council is "on track to have UV treatment up and running" at the treatment plant by its original estimated date of December 8.

“We’ll also be cleaning and flushing the entire network supplied by Two Mile," he says in the statement.

"This is a significant, one-off undertaking outside of normal business and something we’ve been planning alongside work at the treatment plant itself."

It will involve draining and cleaning a large reservoir at Fernhill, as well as cleaning and inspecting all other reservoirs on the network, and flushing all pipes, to dislodge any sediment where cryptosporidium could potentially still reside.

“Whilst the possibility of contamination during these activities is low and extreme care will be taken, they do introduce some additional risk," he says.

"It’s still really important that people in affected areas keep boiling their water. In addition, we ask that everyone including commuters and visitors from other parts of the district maintain good personal hygiene – specifically cleaning and drying their hands thoroughly – to help ensure we stamp out the risk of further cases in our community.”

In October, after an investigation, health authority Te Whatu Ora confirmed human faecal contamination of the Two Mile water supply was the most likely cause of the cryptosporidium outbreak, which caused hundreds to get sick in the area.

Drinking water regulator Taumata Arowai had already issued the council with a compliance order in September, as water treatment infrastructure did not have required protections against contamination by protozoa like cryptosporidium.

In today's statement, Mr Avery says since then council staff and contractors have been "working at pace"  with the regulator to sort a fix to obtain compliance. 

While UV treatment and flushing the system achieves this "in the fastest possible time", a longer-term protozoa barrier for Two Mile's water supply is also on the council's agenda.

Crux has today asked the council for an update on the cost of compliance - both for the short term December 8 fix and the permanent treatment system.

The interim UV treatment device from Two Mile will eventually be shifted for use elsewhere across the district.

A safe drinking water filling station set up by the council in the Queesntown CBD, October 2023.

As it scrambles to bring its Two Mile treatment plant up to scratch, the council is also working to ensure its water drinking supplies in Glenorchy, Luggate and Wānaka meet compliance.

"We’ve been designing systems for other plants in parallel in order to achieve full compliance across the district as quickly as possible,” Mr Avery says.

Next cab of the rank: the Western Wānaka water intake, where work will begin this week.

It will involve a temporary realignment of the lakeside Millennium Track, and may impact on native plantings, which will be reinstated.

Mr Avery says upgrades of the district's drinking water network to reach compliance are seeing council staff and contractors Fulton Hogan and Veolia "completing work in weeks that would typically take many months".

Mr Avery also acknowledges "the patience and resilience being shown by individuals and businesses in the affected areas”.

A boil water notice remains in the following areas:

  • Queenstown town centre
  • Gorge Road out to and including Industrial Place
  • Fernhill
  • Sunshine Bay
  • Queenstown Hill above Frankton Rd out to and including Goldridge Way and Goldrush Way

While Queenstown has hit headlines in recent months, Taumata Arowai has since revealed Queenstown's is just one of 80 non-compliant drinking water supplies around the country.

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