Greenpeace Aotearoa is today launching a new mail-in service to test people’s drinking water for nitrate contamination.

During winter 2021, Greenpeace ran several testing days in communities across Canterbury and Southland, testing over 400 bore-sourced drinking water samples for nitrate contamination. Testing found high levels of nitrate in peoples drinking water in areas affected by intensive dairying.

With Covid restrictions making in-person testing difficult, Greenpeace is now offering to test water samples via a mail-in service.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel says, “Everybody should be able to trust that their tap water is safe to drink. Unfortunately, intensive dairying is causing a spike in nitrate levels in drinking water, due to too much synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and too much cow urine seeping off the land into groundwater.

“People using water from private bores – mostly in rural areas – usually have to pay the cost of nitrate testing themselves. The success of our free in-person testing days shows how important this service is for people concerned about nitrate contamination in their drinking water.

“We are pleased to be able to offer mail-in water testing for people. Not only will this help inform bore owners, but with their consent, the data will be shared confidentially with researchers at Otago University. These findings will thereby contribute to much-needed local understanding of nitrate contamination of groundwater.”

“Over 50% of New Zealanders rely on groundwater for their drinking water supply. The fertiliser and dairy industries are contaminating that vital supply and potentially turning people’s drinking water carcinogenic,” says Abel.

A 2018 scientific study showed a significant increase in risk of bowel cancer at concentrations as low as 0.87mg/L of nitrate contamination in drinking water. Studies have shown that at 5mg/L of nitrate contamination, the risk of premature birth increases by almost 50%.

People interested in having their bore-sourced drinking water tested can order a free testing kit online here.

“It’s an issue of too much synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and too many cows, meaning too much cow urine. That fertiliser and urine leaches nitrate into rivers and groundwater, and then into our drinking water.”

Greenpeace is calling for the government to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and support farmers to move to regenerative organic farming for the good of the climate, rivers and human health.

“These two big chemical companies – Ravensdown and Ballance – are intensifying climate chaos, toxifying our rivers and making people sick through contaminated drinking water – the government needs to act now to cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.”

Greenpeace, along with health researchers Dr Tim Chambers and Dr Alex MacMillan recently provided expert evidence before Parliament’s Environment Select Committee on the case for phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, including concerns around nitrate contamination in drinking water.

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