Health Warning – Unsafe Recreational Water Quality after Rainfall

Friday January 21, 2011

​The Community and Public Health division of Canterbury District Health Board has issued a health warning after high levels of faecal bacteria were found in consecutive samples taken from Okains Bay estuary.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says rainfall in the area in the last few days has most likely caused the high levels of faecal bacteria.

A number of other popular swimming sites in Canterbury may also have high levels of contamination after recent rainfall.

“There remains a significant risk of rivers and estuaries around Christchurch and Kaiapoi being contaminated for up to 48-hours after any rainfall because of infrastructure damage from the September 4, 2010 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks,” Dr Pink says.

“Water quality at affected sites is not considered suitable for recreational uses including swimming because of the risk to health from the bacteria and other pathogens. Eating fish or shellfish from these sites should also be avoided.” 

Water contaminated by human or animal faecal matter may contain a range of disease causing micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and protozoa. 

“In most cases the ill-health effects from exposure to contaminated water are minor and short-lived.  However, there is the potential for more serious diseases, such as hepatitis A, giardia, cryptosporosis, campylobacter and salmonella,” Dr Pink says.

The sites where water quality is affected are listed on Environment Canterbury’s website, he says.​

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2014