By RACHEL MACDONALD
A government review of water and sewage standards is likely to change the face of plumbing in remote areas, says a third-generation North Canterbury plumber, Chris Snackers.
He runs High Country Plumbing, and is finding himself being called on to carry out an increasing amount of water testing in the region, for both the Waimakariri and Hurunui councils, and for property developers, farmers, and other landowners.
“The government’s ongoing review, following the Havelock North water contamination scare is likely to make it more important for home and business-owners to have their systems in order,” he says.
“The risk of catching a nasty illness from poor plumbing is a lot higher than people think and it isn’t an issue that can just be shunted under the table.”
Any water line that services more than 25 people is considered a town supply and falls under the council’s realm. That means it is frequently and rigorously tested under the Public Health Board Drinking Act.
“They have to be safe,” he says.
“In this case, your water might be full of iron, manganese and calcium. It might look revolting, leave marks, and taste foul, but it’s still fine to drink.”
He says a more pressing issue, and one he is seeing over again, is people buying lifestyle blocks and not thinking to get their bores checked for water quality before they close the deal.
While there are guidelines that all potable water should meet, there is no government obligation to conform to those, and no enforcement of them when it comes to private bores, he says.
“There are more than 50,000 private wells registered with Environment Canterbury. That is 50,000 households that need to be protected, but aren’t.
“There is no accountability for water quality to those homes, and no responsibility if someone gets sick,” he says.
“In particular, bores in North Canterbury are rife with E. coli, giardia, cryptosporidium, nitrates and arsenics, and homeowners don’t think about this until they get sick.
“They are so excited to be in their new home, they don’t think to do the due diligence on their drinking supply. It just doesn’t cross their minds.”
For those concerned about what is coming out of their taps, there are several treatment options for sub-par water, he says.
“Chlorine is hugely effective. It smells and tastes awful, but you don’t get sick. And if you’ve got power in the right place, UV treatment is popular, too.”