HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 591: 23 November 2011

Marine Water Quality and Public Health Issues
The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) is the lead government agency for monitoring the quality of our marine waters. Since 2005, the MMR has been regularly monitoring water samples collected in the lagoon and streams. In Rarotonga, 34 sites around the island are measured by the MMR laboratory for levels of nutrients (nitrates and phosphates), bacteria (enterococci as indicator of faecal pathogens), clarity of the water (influenced by suspended solids and algae) and other physical parameters such as salinity, temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen.
The marine ecosystem is fragile and key species such as corals are highly sensitive to changes in water quality. To understand and manage the factors that affect the ecosystem’s health requires a multi-disciplinary approach by government and its partner. A good example of this approach is the Water and Sanitation project in Muri.
A scientific approach is important when dealing with public health issues that may be linked with bathing in marine waters. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bathing in waters with high bacterial loads may cause illness such as diarrhoea, skin irritations, eye and ear infections and respiratory problems.
Ensuring safe water quality is important to Cook Islanders and visitors alike. The MMR along with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation are collaborating together on this issue. As a part of this effort the MMR wishes to assess the public’s perception of health risks linked to water quality to compare with the government records of water quality and public health.
Is there a risk for public health? What is the risk? What standard for water quality should we adopt?
These are some of the questions that are being raised. The MMR will assess the water quality standards and response measures used by other tropical countries and adapt them to reflect the local situation. MMR and MOH data will be correlated to assess the risk for Rarotonga. To complete this data and get everyone’s participation in this important project, Emma Castel, MMR Environmental management and public health policy specialist, will be organising a pubic survey fromNovember 30th2011 until December the 20th 2011. Emma wishes to invites everyone to participate. “Please help us by giving some feedback on our marine waters and give your opinion on the water quality”.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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