Water NZ hopes lead report findings will lead to better monitoring and regulation

A group representing the water sector hopes the findings of a report into lead contamination in East Otago results in better monitoring and regulation.

A do not drink notice remains in effect in Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury Village, after intermittent spikes in the level of lead in the area’s drinking water were detected from July last year.

A report assessing the health response was released yesterday.

The document outlines the need for regulatory improvement in the drinking water supply and sets up a new agency.

Water New Zealand chief executive Gillian Blythe said managing water supply is an extremely complex and involved process.

“You don’t always have specialists on staff and you need to be able to access quickly specialist advice whether that’s biologists, chemists or particular types of engineers and that’s something that’s useful to recognise.”

Blythe said there also needs to be better regulation for tapware, which can cause lead contamination.

“It is very important that imported plumbing fittings are monitored by a regulatory authority to safeguard consumers from lead contamination caused by taps.”

She said the organisation has been working together with the Plumbing Association on the issue.

Master Plumbers welcomed the Ministry of Health’s recommendation to review current plumbing standards with regards to allowable lead levels in imported tapware and fittings.

“Whilst the recommendation is a good one, New Zealand needs to move to lead-free tapware and brass fittings as a matter of urgency,” Master Plumbers chief executive Greg Wallace said in a statement.

He said other countries are moving to lead-free tapwear and brass fittings and New Zealand should be following suit.

“It is not enough to tell homeowners to run the tap before drinking if the water has been sitting for a while, as the Health Ministry’s advice currently stands,” he said.