A review into the health system response to lead contamination in Waikouaiti’s drinking water supply has found that the sector focused on reducing the risk to the community’s health first.
“I commissioned Dr Heather Uwins-England and Dr Jill McKenzie to conduct a rapid review into the health sector response to elevated lead levels in the Waikouaiti drinking-water supply,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
“They have provided an independent lens over the health response, engaging with the various local and central government health agencies involved to examine the processes taken to reduce risk to health and wellbeing.
“The overall finding of the report was that the public health risk assessment and response was timely and appropriate, particularly around informing the community and undertaking lead screening.
“I am satisfied the timing of the advice to the community to stop drinking the water was appropriate. The public meetings to keep the community informed were well received and their rapid standing up of testing centres particularly helped determine the overall residents’ exposure to lead.
“Less than 40 people were found to have lead exposure above notifiable levels and on further assessment, many were found to be higher than normal due to other environmental factors,” said Dr Bloomfield.
The review also considered if any amendments were required to health legislation, compliance and operational processes to improve public safety and reduce risk to health and wellbeing.
“The report has provided a number of recommendations which I support. I will be writing to registered drinking water suppliers and laboratories to remind them of the requirements on them and my expectations,” said Dr Bloomfield.