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Taumata Arowai water proposals "wolf in sheep's clothing" - Greenpeace

Wednesday 30 March 2022, 9:19AM

By Greenpeace Aotearoa

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A stoush is brewing between Greenpeace and the Government’s new drinking water regulator Taumata Arowai. The environment group is calling the agency's proposals for increasing the permissible amounts of 17 toxins in people’s drinking water a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Steve Abel said that "under the guise of improving water quality, the water regulator’s proposals are a wolf in sheep's clothing, because they actually increase the amounts of dangerous toxins permissible in people’s drinking water."

In a media interview on RNZ yesterday morning Taumata Arowai principal advisor for drinking water, Jim Graham, said that some chemical amounts "need to be increased."

"For the good of human health there is absolutely no ‘need’ - nor can any good come from increasing toxins in people's drinking water," said Abel.

"Everybody has the right to safe drinking water, but Taumata Arowai, the agency entrusted with making our water safe, is raising the amount of poison allowed in drinking water. It’s perverse and wrong.

The only ones who will benefit from allowing more toxins in our water are the agrichemical companies who sell them, such as Ravensdown."

Taumata Arowai is also proposing to keep the nitrate contamination limit at 11.3mg/l which is ten times higher than the level associated with colorectal cancer. Scientists warn that nitrate in drinking water could be causing 100 cases of colorectal cancer and 40 deaths per year in New Zealand.

"Rural people on household bore water supplies are most at risk of agrichemical water contamination. The Government needs to lower the legal limit for nitrate which is our most widespread water contaminant and is linked to colorectal cancer and preterm birth," said Abel.

The comments come after Taumata Arowai responded to criticism from Environmental groups for their proposal to increase the permissible levels of 17 toxic chemicals in drinking water. The regulator is proposing to increase the permissible amount of the chemical atrazine in drinking water by 5000% from 0.002 mg/L to 0.1mg/L.

Atrazine is a known endocrine disruptor. It is banned in 42 countries including all 27 European Union states. Research has linked atrazine to birth defects and cancer in people, and even miniscule doses can chemically castrate frogs. Atrazine is still used in New Zealand.

"It is disturbing that the Government is not reducing contamination of drinking water by banning substances like atrazine or cutting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser - but instead raising the permissible levels of contaminants in our drinking water at the cost of human health," said Abel.

Greenpeace is calling on the Government to lower the limit on nitrate contamination - caused by too many dairy cows and synthetic nitrogen fertiliser - and not increase the permissible limits on any of the 17 hazardous substances listed in the review.