Southern DHB, Dunedin City Council to address lead levels in water at public meeting

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East Otago residents will hear directly from officials about the lead levels in their water supply during a recently announced public meeting.

Karitane - lead water advice by Dunedin City Council

A warning sign regarding the lead levels in water in East Otago. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Last night, the Southern District Health Board revealed unsafe lead levels have been detected in children’s blood tests in east Otago in the wake of the lead contamination scare.

It follows the discovery earlier this month that traces of lead up to 40 times the acceptable level had been discovered in the water supply for people living in and around Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury Village.

Close to 1400 people had their blood lead tested last week.

While the turnaround for the results for residents is roughly 48 hours, the first opportunity to find out the community’s blood test results will be during a public meeting on March 5 in Waikouaiti at the East Otago Events Centre.

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It’s there Public Health South and the Dunedin City Council will report back their findings into the contamination.

Southern District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Jack said she was looking forward to reporting back to the community and understood the great interest in the outcomes of the tests.

However, she asked for people to avoid drawing conclusions.

“We are aware there has been a lot of discussion and speculation about the results people have been receiving,” Jack said.

“Most people have detectable but very low levels of lead as we would expect in any community. There are a small number of more elevated results coming through as well – again this is not unexpected. For each of these cases, we are providing follow up advice and any care that may be needed. This will include carrying out an assessment of any other sources of potential lead exposure, such as old paint, or through other occupations or pastimes.”

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The results required careful interpretation and needed to take into account individual exposures.

“We are working with the Ministry of Health and expert ESR scientists to build an accurate picture,” Jack said.

“While we understand people’s interest in seeing results as soon as possible, it’s not as simple as reporting back raw results. We want to make sure the information we share can accurately inform our next steps. This does take some time and we thank the community for their patience.”

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