An Otago mother says an offer of free fruit and vegetables from the local council following a possible lead contamination in water supplies is the least they could do.
The Dunedin City Council announced on Sunday that it would supply a range of fruit and vegetables to residents in Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury until it was clear whether home-grown vegetables irrigated with local water were contaminated.
This is a very worrying time for residents in these communities and its important we do what we can to help at a practical level while we continue working towards finding the cause of the contamination, chief executive Sandy Graham said in a statement.
The produce would be initially available from Tuesday to Friday at the East Otago Events Centre and could be collected during times when the centre was open for blood testing.
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Karitane resident and mother-of-three Jazhr Hansen said she did not have a vegetable garden, so would not take any of the free produce, but it was the least the council could do and other locals would benefit from the offer.
She said a Karitane community garden had been forced to close because of the water issue.
Thats quite sad because thats where a lot of people get their veges from.
A Waikouaiti resident expresses concern about their home-grown produce.
At a public meeting on Friday, a woman who said she grew food to feed her family and neighbours asked what she should do after residents in Waikouaiti were told not to harvest fruit and vegetable for several weeks.
Hansen, who attended the meeting, said it was clear the expert panel had not thought about this issue, and she remained concerned about the possible effects on her familys health.
High lead levels can cause mood changes (such as depression or irritability), memory impairment, sleep disturbance, headaches and tingling and numbness in fingers and hands in adults, the Ministry of Health website states.
In young children, it can cause vomiting, stomach pains, difficulty sleeping, constipation, and loss of appetite.
Blood tests were being offered to affected residents from Tuesday and Hansen said she would get herself and her 5-month-old baby tested.
Residents expressed anger at the meeting about the delay in letting the public know about the lead level readings.
A sign at Waikouaiti advertises a public meeting on the water supply issue.
In one water sample, taken on December 8, lead was detected at 40 times the safe level for drinking, but authorities did not receive the information until January 7 due to an email bungle.
A sample taken at the Waikouaiti raw water reservoir on January 20 returned elevated levels of lead nine days later. On February 2, Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack advised the supplys users not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or preparing food until further notice.
Graham said on Sunday the source of the contamination was still not known, but potential causes included lead joins in older pipes, environmental contamination in the wider catchment, or sampling errors.
Water tankers were on site to provide clean, safe drinking water.
Staff had given out more than 2500 containers for people to use and people could call 03 477 4000 if they needed help collecting water.
Concerned residents attend a public meeting about the water contamination in Waikouaiti on Friday.
Graham said having staff at the tankers could offer assistance and answer questions from Tuesday.
The council planned to set up a drop-in centre for concerned residents at the Waikouaiti Library the following week.
Work to dig up and check the condition of some sections of old cast iron water pipes in Waikouaiti was almost complete. Five sections of pipeline across the area, including a section in Edinburgh St, were being assessed.
The could planned to replace any sections of old cast iron pipes in the near future to remove that potential source of contamination from the network.
More water test results were expected on Tuesday.