Chlorinating our water supply, yes or no?

Monday June 17, 2019 Written by Published in Health

At the Te Ipukarea Society meeting, nearly everybody present was against the use of chlorine to disinfect Rarotonga water. Some of the reasons given were:

1.  Many people have been drinking the tap water for years, and have not had any health issues. Admittedly, these people may have developed some natural immunity to the bugs, but surely that is a good thing?

There has been no evidence we are aware of from the health department or Te Mato Vai about the number, type, and severity of medical cases resulting from drinking unclean water.

 2. People do not like the smell of chlorine, and do not want chemicals in their water. 

3. According to the public presentations on the water upgrade, there are four stages in providing better quality water to Rarotonga under Te Mato Vai. The first three are: settling out most of the solids; flocculation for coagulating any remaining solids so they can also settle out, and filtration. The fourth stage is disinfection with chlorine. People felt that after the first three stages of treatment are complete, the water will definitely be much better than what they are drinking now.

4. We have been told that water testing at the intakes has found very high levels of contamination and unacceptable levels of bacteria such as E. coli, an indicator of faecal material. Perhaps find where this faecal material comes from, given we have very few animals living above the water intakes. Maybe we should work on eradicating the rats, and see if the situation improves.

5. People were concerned about the potential impacts on the fresh water ecology in the event of any leaks of chlorine, or even the lower levels of chlorinated water that will be flowing into the lagoon from run-off.

According to World Health Organisation guidelines: "Water supplied for drinking purposes should be inoffensive to consumers. Consumers may resort to a more palatable, but possibly unsafe, source if water is considered unacceptable."

This is probably one of the main issues with chlorination. People know what chlorinated water tastes and smells like from their experience in other countries, and they do not like it.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to wait to actually build the infrastructure and turn on the taps, then wait until further information is available to justify disinfection.

-TIS

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