The Manawatu has earned us the dubious honour of being the most polluted river in the Southern Hemisphere. Anybody who remembers the quality of our waterways from the 1950s through to the 80s or thereabouts, will remember long summers spent swimming unhampered by any need to check the water quality before taking a dip. Didn’t matter if you swallowed a mouthful or two, it was clean and healthy. Not so any more.
Only 40% of our rivers now are deemed safe to swim in. The rest are safe to wade in only. And why is this? Well I recently read a warning stating it was not safe to swim following floods, that being due to the run off from surrounding farms … pesticides, fertilizers, animal faeces and urine, the unmentionable dirty word, ‘glyphosate’ and whatever other herbicide the farmer uses that is deemed perfectly harmless. (Most farmers I know have told me “roundup’s very mild” and they’re generally not inclined to want to listen to the data about the carcinogenic properties of glyphosate, acknowledged recently by WHO who said that it ‘probably causes cancer’). Anyway we are advised if we’re intending to swim in our local river spot, to go online and check the various LG websites for the quality of the water on the day.
Recently during a spell of unrest about the state of our swimming holes as folk were catching on to the level of pollution we have, we had a publicity stunt by Nats Nick Smith, Jono Naylor and Ian McKelvie, those governmental (corporate) reps of ours who strive to convince us the severely polluted Manawatu is all safe as houses. It was a very quick dip and wouldn’t have fooled too many. The public awareness of water quality (or lack thereof) is somewhat heightened these days, thanks especially to social media. Our corporate owned media is now treading carefully the fine line of not upsetting the powers that be … lest they also be short of a job.
WHAT IS POLLUTING THE RIVER?
* Farm runoff from fertilisers, and animal waste such as cow dung and urine, leach into the river.
* Treated sewage discharged by councils
* Treated industrial effluent including wastewater from Fonterra, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, Tui Brewery
* Sediment washing into the river from overgrazed farms or eroding countryside alters the natural habitat for native bugs or fish [stuff.co.nz]
The Double Speak of Local Government
There is, however, a very murky, seldom mentioned side to the Manawatu River. I watched recently, a video by Horowhenua District Councillor (now Mayor) Michael Feyen. Feyen, who cares passionately about the environment and protecting it, has filmed some very interesting videos demonstrating the extent of the pollution of the Manawatu and Horowhenua waterways by the District Council (sewage discharge), industry and farming practices. His colleague Cr Ross Campbell has filmed similar and subsequently been trespassed for two years by his own Council, illustrative of how little DCs truly abide by the sustainable practices that they espouse on their websites nationwide. A note here, I am not anti farming … it’s really about genuinely using sustainable practices which includes for one, the adequate fencing of waterways so stock don’t trample the waterways. It’s also about local government making rules that reflect sustainable practices … and enforcing them.
“Toe the line and deny any pollution by the HDC was the clear message given by Mayor Brendan Duffy to Horowhenua District Councillors” Mrs Anne Hunt (former HDC Cr)
For fuller coverage of the event surrounding the alleged discharge of raw sewage into Shannon’s waterways by the DC, and the subsequent assault of a local environmental activist (this is how serious the issue has become) go HERE. Local iwi, Ngati Whakatere have been vocal about this pollution for some time now.
See also the statements of a whistleblower, Mrs Anne Hunt, an former Councillor who tells of the lengths the Horowhenua DC goes to to discredit Environmental Care members. Feyen has stated that DCs and Horizons are serial polluters!
THE NUMBERS back in 2009
* 25 resource consents to discharge into the Manawatu River were granted.
* 75,600 cubic metres could be discharged daily.
* Palmerston North, Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua councils had consents to discharge treated sewage and wastewater.
* Horizons Regional Council took four prosecutions and 36 fine actions over illegal discharges that year.
* The top five resource consents for daily discharge:
46,600 cubic metres, Palmerston North City Council
24,000cum, Feilding sewerage plant
6000cum, Fonterra at Longburn
A Young Man Contracts Trench Mouth
Watch and hear of the young man who contracted Trench Mouth from playing water sports in the Manawatu River. He was told by his Doctor that there have been only a few cases of this since WW2.
Watching this video got me researching a little more about why Trench Mouth and the bacteria in the water causing it. Firstly, here is a description of this particularly nasty infection:
The name alone can leave a bad taste in your mouth. But this EXTREMELY painful bacterial infection leaves a LOT more than just a bad taste. Trench mouth is like an amped up case of periodontal disease, where the infection is not only rapidly attacking the gums and bone, but causes the formation of gum ulcers filled with bacteria, food debris and DECAYING tissue earning it the official name of ACUTE NECROTIZING ULCERATIVE GINGIVITIS…Trench mouth became prevalent during World War I when soldiers who were fighting from the trenches developed the condition… overgrowths of some extremely virulent bacteria spread throughout the mouth.
One of them, spirochete, happens to also be responsible for syphilis when it’s found genitally.
If UNTREATED, the bacteria from trench mouth can spread to the cheeks, lips, or jawbone, where it’s been known to destroy healthy tissue –Research has shown that the bacteria associated with this gum condition can, in EXTREME cases, ALSO spread throughout the body, AND even cause oral cancers. If you HAVE trench mouth, your gums will develop a GRAY FILM caused by decomposed tissue. You may also see crater-like ulcers between the teeth.
Very ominous. Searching further, I looked for more info on ‘spirochetes’.
The following information is from the Berkley University site. It is edited for brevity but you can learn more at the link.
Introduction to the Spirochetes
“Although spirochetes are not a large group — there are only six genera — they have had tremendous impact on our lives. Both syphilis and Lyme disease are caused by these bacteria and other species are important symbionts in the stomachs of cows and other ruminants. [Note: reports say Lyme disease has doubled in five years. For a somewhat disturbing expose of Lyme, watch the doco Under Our Skin].
Spirochetes are long and slender bacteria, usually only a fraction of a micron in diameter but 5 to 250 microns long. They are tightly coiled, and so look like miniature springs or telephone cords…
The ecological roles of spirochetes are varied; the group includes both aerobic and anaerobic species, and both free-living and parasitic forms. … Some species of Treponema live in the rumen of a cow’s stomach, where they break down cellulose and other difficult to digest plant polysaccharides for their host.”
Perhaps the best-known spirochetes are those which cause disease. These include syphilis and Lyme disease, as well as other less well-known ones… leptospirosis is a livestock disease caused by spirochetes. SOURCE
NZ’s Massey University have produced the following series of seven videos giving you the ABCs of Leptospirosis:
A brief summary of facts from the videos (subsequent videos will play following the one featured) :
Video 1: The Leptospirosis bacteria is found in animal urine. Leptospirosis is caught by contact and particularly from standing waters in pastures eg after flooding … (3.23 in the video).
- It is found in areas stricken by routine flooding. NZ has the highest rate each year!! (at 6.30 in the video).
- 113 were diagnosed with Leptospirosis in 2012 in NZ, is likely higher, and more than half were farmers.
- At 1.55 the most affected categories are listed, one of which is ‘swimming in infected lakes & rivers’.
- Leptospirosis can lead to a few days to a life time’s illness. It has flu like symptoms. 5.35.
Video 4 Weather can create an outbreak for example in sheep following flooding of pastures like the February 2004 floods in the Manawatu. The backteria can live outside the host for a time then animals grazing & drinking ingest them. At 3.07 in the video, those at risk are recreational land & water users.
Video 6 Keep mouth eyes cuts etc clear to avoid exposure (1.30). If diagnosed early enough it can be treated with antibiotics.
Video 7 4.08 The need to look at risk factors in the farming community, particularly dairy farming and at 4.40 the need to understand the link between wildlife, humans & livestock, the risks for farmers and what wild life are acting as reservoirs.
How the Manawatu & Horowhenua Waterways are Polluted
Now, to join some dots … if you have watched any of Cr Feyen’s videos you will note that flooding features frequently in the information. He’s filmed videos that illustrate the filth that is dumped at river mouths following flooding. Farming, sewage and industrial discharge, often untreated, goes straight into the rivers. There you have the perfect conditions for these nasties to proliferate. Watch and see a flush of farm effluent and hear the graphic description. See also the discharge of raw sewage (filmed by Cr Campbell) into the local stream.
Enough information there then to influence your decision about whether or not to swim in the Manawatu River, or any NZ river for that matter? Remember, only around 40% of them are deemed healthy enough now to swim in anyway. So much for the clean green image that is portrayed abroad. NZ is not clean and green, not by any wild stretch of the imagination. With local body elections coming up, find out which of your proposed reps will make changes to this broken system and vote for them.
We need to make a stand against this ongoing corporate pollution, particularly that done by the very organizations that claim to be using sustainable practices.