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Published: 2010-12-21 00:00:00

Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley says it is wrong to suggest the Waikato River is not safe to swim in at Hamilton.

A member of a group calling itself River City Rebels has been quoted as saying that “everybody in Hamilton just doesn’t understand that the river is too dirty to go swimming in”. The group pointed the finger at Fonterra and farmers over river pollution.

But EW water scientist Bill Vant confirms the Waikato River is generally safe for swimming from Lake Taupo right down to Ngaruawahia. After that sediment and bacteria from the Waipa River can potentially cause problems for swimmers.

“Before Ngaruawahia, the river is generally safe for swimming,” said Cr Buckley.

“Water quality in the river between Taupo and Karapiro is in particular generally suitable for swimming as bacteria is killed off when water is exposed to sunlight for extended periods in the hydro dams.”

However, Cr Buckley agreed water quality issues generally in the region were of concern and EW was working with iwi, the newly formed Waikato River Authority and other stakeholders to address those issues.

“While we look at how best to deal with the problems we face it is important to stick to the facts of the situation.”