The groundwater and soil contamination was caused by PFAS chemicals released from toxic firefighting foam around the Ōhakea air force base.
Ōhakea residents who have been drinking bottled water for three years due to contamination from the nearby air force base have finally got a running supply of clean water.
The Ōhakea Rural Water Scheme was opened by the Minister for the Environment David Parker and Manawatū District Council’s mayor Helen Worboys in Sanson on Tuesday.
The scheme was actioned after it was discovered in 2017 a number of households had been drinking water contaminated by toxic firefighting foam used during training at the air base.
A buildup of chemicals had run off into nearby groundwater. The type of foam, used mostly in training to fight fuel fires, was banned in 2006 because it contained poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS).
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* Ōhakea water scheme to avoid PFAS contamination should be ready by Christmas 2021
Air Force firefighters blast a crashed Devon with foam to prevent a fuel fire at Ōhakea air base in 2006.
Parker said on Tuesday the scheme came about following strong advocacy by Manawatū mayor Helen Worboys and Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie.
“The government is pleased to support this project with funding of $10.88m to help allay community concerns about the safety of the water you drink and use.”
The scheme was rolled out to deliver a new bore, reservoir, water treatment plant, and pipe network as well as connections to houses and farms.
Andy Russell, chairperson of a committee set up to advocate for the affected residents, said the water scheme has lessened the community’s fears around their personal health and the health of their land and production.
After the contamination was uncovered in 2017, the defence force setup water stations, including one at Ōhakea War Memorial Hall, to assist with community enquiries and the ongoing water testing progamme.
Worboys said the project team had face-to-face visits with residents and visited 97 properties in the area by mid-2021.
“The project reached everyone in the community eligible to receive water under the planned scheme. The visits helped with the details on where tanks should go, and how many units were needed.”
The scheme’s roll out and progress was affected by the covid lockdown in August 2021. There was also a delay following water sampling of the aquifer, which showed the water had a high level of iron and manganese.
A second filtration system was required to make the water potable for consumption.
With a reservoir in Sanson and a pipe network of 28 kilometres, the scheme would supply water to more than 80 properties.
The scheme can supply 1500 cubic metres of water a day through the treatment plant, and it includes the reservoir with a capacity for 1 million litres of water.
An additional $2 million of funding came from the Manawatū council.