Sewage seepage after treatment plant malfunction triggers stomach bug fears among whitebait

Te Tauihu Maori have placed a rä hui on the Motueka coastline after part of the Motueka wastewater treatment plant failed.

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Te Tauihu Maori have placed a rä hui on the Motueka coastline after part of the Motueka wastewater treatment plant failed.

A malfunction at a sewage treatment plant has caused some treated effluent to be discharged into a wetland area, raising concerns about whitebait contamination.

At a Tasman Regional Council environment and regulatory committee meeting on Thursday, Motueka MP Brent Maru said he was aware of five or six cases of locals suffering gastrointestinal illnesses from eating whitebait. incident of illness, although he admitted it could have been a coincidence.

“Given that 90 per cent of the whitebait sold in Motueka comes from the Motueka estuary, what is the real public health issue?” Maru asked.

Regulatory services manager Adrian Humphries said the council had powers under the Health Act.

“But we can’t stop people from buying what they decide to buy,” he said.

“I’m afraid it’s a bit caveat emptor, buyer beware as we have no control over this”

If council staff are aware of someone selling something they know is harmful to health, they will work with Te Whatu Ora to resolve the issue.

Humphreys said he was not aware of an ongoing problem, but he could ask environmental health officers to talk to the board of health to see if they have a strategy.

He said if those who fell ill reported it to a doctor, health protection officers would come to investigate, so there was a notification process, but this was done by the health board rather than the council. .

Te Tauihu Māori set up a rāhui on the Motueka coastline after a failure at the Motueka wastewater treatment plant caused some of the treated sewage to seep into the Motueka estuary.

The rāhui came into effect on Wednesday, banning seafood and kai gatherings in affected areas, as well as swimming and entering the water.

Te Whatu Ora Nelson Marlborough interim public health services manager Sonya Briggs said they had been working with the council since September 22 on reducing capacity at the Motueka wastewater treatment plant and Motueka Estuary.

She said the National Public Health Service team was confident in the surveillance approach the council was taking and that there was no current public health risk.

All public health warnings, communications and rāhui are proactive precautions and are being implemented as a precautionary measure.

Acute gastroenteritis is an infectious disease under the Health Act 1956 and should be notified to health officers and local authorities.

Briggs said while Te Whatu Ora had not received any reports of gastrointestinal illness so far, not all cases of acute gastroenteritis had to be reported and some people could manage their symptoms at home without seeking medical advice. medical care.

She said people who thought they had become ill from consuming mahingakai harvested in the region should contact their GP and/or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

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