Groundwater Contamination Issues in Canterbury Have North Islanders Worried

Monday 23 October 2017, 2:10PM
By Beckie Wright

A groundwater contamination issue in the South Island has some people in the North Island wondering if they need to be concerned about their groundwater safety.

In Canterbury, an increase in irrigation is putting newborn babies at a higher risk of water contamination. Nitrates are commonly used for irrigation, but figures from the Canterbury Regional Council reveals that for the ten years to the end of 2016, nitrate levels increased in 23% of all monitored wells. This means that the nitrate levels in Canterbury are coming close to exceeding safe limits. Irrigation began in Canterbury in the 1940s and has been helping dairy farms.

Nitrates are harmless to adults, but it can cause blue baby syndrome in newborns, which can be fatal. This syndrome is believed to be caused by nitrate contamination in groundwater, resulting in decreased oxygen carrying capacity of haemoglobin in babies.

The high levels of nitrate may currently be a problem confined to Canterbury, but those in the North Island are also concerned for the safety of their groundwater.

Agriculture is booming in the North Island, with areas like the Hawkes Bay boasting 30,000ha of projects in the pipeline. While this may have positive financial benefits, it could risk the health of Kiwis living in dairy farming areas.  Many of the dune lakes in Auckland are suffering from nutrient load increases as nutrients move through the sandy soils.

If you are experiencing groundwater contamination or soil contamination on your property, get in touch with Thomas Consultants. They are a multi-disciplined team of civil engineering consultants who handle issues such as soil and groundwater investigations. If you are a concerned resident of the North Island, you can discuss any land problems you are experiencing with an environmental consultant from Thomas Consultants.