Turn-on is a turn-off

Tuesday December 03, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Ani O'Neill, Christina Maclennan, Missy Vakapora, Andy Kirkwood, Renall Vogel, Robert Wigmore, Io Vakapora. 19120201 Ani O'Neill, Christina Maclennan, Missy Vakapora, Andy Kirkwood, Renall Vogel, Robert Wigmore, Io Vakapora. 19120201

Furious Matavera resident Renall Vogel joined anti-chemical group Te Vai Ora Maori yesterday to protest government turning on the taps of the new filtered water intakes.

 

When Vogel was young, he and his family drank the water from the old Matavera intake and have for many years since – and he fears the chemical polyaluminium chloride, used to clean the bugs that cause giardia, will do more harm than good.

Te Mato Vai project management unit says Matavera is the first intake being switched on, but no chlorine will be added to the public water supply until government decides how to disinfect the water.

A dozen protesters lined the main road at Matavera yesterday morning to oppose the government’s decision to switch on Rarotonga’s new filtered water intakes.

Te Mato Vai project management unit says Matavera is the first intake being switched on, but no chlorine will be added to the public water supply until government decides how to disinfect the water.

The Matavera water plant and pipes will, however, be flushed with chlorine to disinfect the new infrastructure, before it is washed out and the new water supply is switched on.

The water engineers will also begin a six-month trial of poly-aluminium chloride, a coagulant that makes small particles in the water stick together  and sink to the bottom of the tank, getting rid of harmful protozoa that causes dangerous gastro diseases.

Matavera resident Renall Vogel joined anti-chemical group Te Vai Ora Maori yesterday to protest. He said he was furious at the use of chemicals to clean the water.

When Vogel was young, he and his family drank the water from the old Matavera intake and have for many years since – and he feared the chemical poly-aluminium chloride, used to clean out the bugs that cause giardia, would do more harm than good.

Vogel believes more people should be worried about poly-aluminium chloride as he believed aluminium in drinking water is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Academic studies have shown a positive association between high aluminium levels and the disease, though aluminium has not been identified as a cause of Alzheimer’s.

Te Vai Ora Maori member Justine Flanagan said they wanted a trial of non-chemical solutions or alternatives before deciding to use chemical treatment.

Anolyte was one water treatment that did not harm the environment or the people, she said.

As for the use of poly-aluminium chloride, Flanagan says muddy water could be diverted instead of being put through the coagulation process.

“Poly-aluminum chloride is not a sustainable solution and the waste produced from it cannot be disposed of sustainably on the island,” said Flanagan. 

“The government is not listening to the people and our right to democracy,” she added.

Te Mato Vai says they have been talking with all known Matavera intake landowners, but last week a new landowner came forward who did not agree to the six-month trial of poly-aluminium chloride.

Project management unit spokesperson Kate Woodruffe said at this stage they would only be disinfecting the new infrastructure with chlorine and would not be disinfecting the rest of the network.

“The flushing work will be done at each of the intake sites as part of the commissioning, so it will happen at different times on each site,” she said.

“We have not yet decided when flushing will be done at each site, as we are still working through the details of commissioning timing with the contractor.”

Woodruffe said they would advise landowners as details become available.

 

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