Photo: Florence Charvin

Te Whatu Ora Hawke’s Bay says it has received reports from six Awatoto residents reporting illness in themselves or their families as a result of the contamination in the area from last month’s flooding.

Last week a statement said it had heard from just one person suffering with symptoms of gastroenteritis, but residents had since been advised to contact the health agency to report any symptoms they were experiencing.

“Symptoms reported by residents have included symptoms of gastroenteritis (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea), upper airway irritation, coughing, and skin irritation.

“When people have been exposed to flood waters or involved in cleaning up silt and flood-damaged properties, it is common to see an increase in gastroenteritis, respiratory illnesses, and skin infections, which is what we are seeing among residents of Awatoto who have reported illness,” medical officer of health Dr Bridget Wilson said.

Residents BayBuzz has spoken to have expressed frustration that Te Whatu Ora didn’t send anyone out to survey residents at the outset, rather leaving it for people to report any issues to them. Others have reported simply being confused about whether they should stay or go as the level of risk was not entirely clear to them.

Wilson said the preliminary assessment of the health risk to the residential area had been based on floodwater and silt sampling and advice issued to residents last week said that the risk from exposure to potential chemical contamination was likely to be low for those living in or assisting in the clean-up in residential Awatoto. 

“However, because all flood waters and silt in the area should be considered to be contaminated with sewage, the appropriate precautions should be taken when cleaning up – mask, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and gumboots or sturdy boots.”

Napier City Council has provided free testing of private water bores to residents on McLeod Road, Waitangi Road, Phillips Street and Awatoto Road between McLeod and Waitangi and accompanying advice on what the results mean for each bore.

Te Whatu Ora has since reviewed additional silt samples taken by Napier City Council on March 9 of properties on Awatoto Rd, Waitangi Rd and McLeod Street, which confirmed the risk of chemical contamination of properties was extremely low.

“Silt sampling results confirm significant contamination with bacteria. This is consistent with contamination from sewage so it is important people wear the right PPE when cleaning up areas that were flooded or contain silt deposits.”

Wilson says the agency has always recommended the use of PPE when cleaning up in flood affected areas and to treat flood waters as potentially contaminated.

BayBuzz obtained a copy of the Science and Technology Committee report, dated March 3, that triggered the hard cordon two weeks ago, under the Official Information Act.

The report was aimed at giving ‘rapid preliminary advice’ – initial advice on how to respond to the contamination based on what was known at the time.

Regarding affected residents, the report concluded that there was insufficient information available for it to be able to provide guidance on whether residents should be evacuated, and recommended the local medical officer of health was best placed to make any decisions on the matter.

The STAC report also recommended a coordinated communications approach to those affected.

Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand on Air.


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  1. From a public health perspective it would be interesting to see how many instances of D and V and gastro symptoms have been reported in other areas, I know there has been a lot in Clive too. A geographical map with incidences would prove useful.

  2. Who is Te Whatu Ora.
    I guess it is H B hospital.
    95% of people in NZ speak English.
    Why are we starting to change the language that only the few understand.
    I love the the culture but I do not understand why.

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