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Heading to the bach? Flush the water when you arrive

13 December 2021
lead in drinking water water flush taps

Drinking water

The good old Kiwi bach is a summer favourite. Whether you’re staying in your own or you’ve booked a holiday home. But don’t let unhealthy water spoil your fun.

Be aware, if a property has stood empty for a while, water will have stagnated in the plumbing pipes and fittings.

Be sure to turn on all the taps and showerheads and give the system a thorough flush as soon as you arrive, advises Master Plumbers CEO, Greg Wallace.

“Apart from stagnant water not tasting very good, there are a few important health reasons for taking this measure,” he says.

“The first is that the water may contain Legionella, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly type of pneumonia.

“Legionella thrives in stagnant water. By flushing the water before you drink or take a shower, you’ll reduce the risk of drinking or inhaling waterborne droplets that could contain this nasty bacteria.”

The second reason for giving the taps a good flush on arrival is to remove lead from your drinking water, says Wallace.

Taps have traditionally been made with brass barrels containing lead, and this can be dissolved in water at potentially harmful levels if it’s been sitting overnight or longer in the tap.

Lead is a neurotoxin. There is no safe level of exposure, and it’s particularly damaging to children.

“The Ministry of Health recommends flushing a large glass full of water from your drinking water tap each morning before use to avoid drinking lead and other heavy metals that may have entered your water supply,” says Wallace.

“Whilst this is definitely worth doing, Master Plumbers does not believe it is a sufficient health response. We want to see an urgent overhaul for the plumbing standards relating to lead in drinking water.”

The New Zealand tapware standard currently allows up to 4.5 percent of lead content in tapware sold in this country.

“Australia, by contrast, has just announced it is reducing its maximum acceptable value to 0.25 percent (effectively ‘lead free’) over the next three years.

“New Zealand must keep in step or we risk becoming a dumping ground for substandard product.”

This is particularly concerning, given that there is no independent auditing requirement for tapware available for purchase in New Zealand, though many reputable manufacturers choose to get this done for their own products.

“Master Plumbers recently carried out its own tests on tapware that we purchased at random from an online site and the results were alarming,” says Wallace.

“The water from one of the taps contained lead at levels a massive 11 times over the acceptable limit in New Zealand and this acceptable limit is already much higher than in many other countries.”

Master Plumbers has been urging the government to address these issues for some time now, and Wallace says he is hopeful for positive progress in the New Year.

“I look forward to the day when everyone in New Zealand can enjoy a glass of water from the tap without wondering if they’re drinking dangerous amounts of lead.

“In the meantime, enjoy your summer at the bach—and don’t forget to flush the water when you arrive!”


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