Media Release - 16/11/10
Despite water quality in earthquake affected rivers and estuaries returning to pre-earthquake levels, Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health says it is still not safe to go whitebaiting or swimming as contamination levels would still be dangerous to anyone who ingested the water. This is particularly important as a component of this contamination is human (leaking from cracked sewers), rather than simply animal contamination.
Christchurch City Council City water and waste unit manager Mark Christison said “Council workers have worked tirelessly to the point where we no longer have any direct discharges into our local rivers and this is reflected in the remarkable drop in contamination levels. However, damage to the many kilometres of sewer pipes which are close to the Styx, Kaiapoi, Waimakariri and Avon rivers mean that there almost certainly will be some contamination after rainfall, and possibly at other times also."
Dr. Humphrey says “Although some people think that whitebait is safe because it is cooked, the water in which the whitebait is trapped and frozen will contain human sewage, which can contaminate your kitchen and your kitchen utensils. You may not get sick from eating a whitebait patty, but you could get sick from consuming a salad or some other food prepared in the same kitchen.
“While rowers, kayakers and other boat users are able to reduce their risk by washing down their boats after use and showering, as well as scrupulous hand washing, the same is not true for swimmers or white baiters,” says Dr Humphrey.
Because of this risk, the ban on whitebaiting in the Styx, Kaiapoi, Waimakariri and Avon rivers will stay until at least the end of the white baiting season. Ignoring this ban carries a maximum penalty of a $5000 fine and/or 3 months imprisonment.