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A class of students at Riverdale School were shocked to find unsafe levels of E. coli in the school’s nearest river, the Taruheru, and decided to seek action.

They sent letters to the Gisborne District Council, the three mayoral candidates and Willie Te Aho from Te Aitanga a Mahaki, inviting them to a presentation of their research results at the school.

“In our experiment we found that the Turanganui River had E.coli levels of 18 most probable number (MPN)/100ml and the Waimata was 29MPN/100ml which were not dangerous.

But the Taruheru River was 1200MPN/100ml.

“This is six times the safe level for E.coli to be in any water,” they said.

Lead negotiator for Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Willie Te Aho, took up the class’s invitation, and thanked them for their “excellent presentation”.

“We do not accept the continued discharging of waste into our rivers and sea.”

Mr Te Aho said he and his hapu hadbeen waiting 30 years to have the sewage discharge issue addressed.

“It is a legal matter now.”

Neither mayoral candidates Rehette Stoltz or Meredith Akuhata-Brown were able to attend the presentation but have scheduled meetings with the students.

Water is only considered safe for drinking if there are very low concentrations of E.coli present. When E.coli in rivers and lakes is detected above 550MPN per 100 millilitres, health authorities put up signs warning that swimming or collecting shellfish is not recommended.

E.coli is a type of fecal coliform bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans.

The presence of E. coli in water is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

Sewage may contain many types of disease-causing organisms.

TESTING LEVELS: Ava Paenga and Kiri Gray-Seymour from Room 1 at Riverdale School with lead negotiator for Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Willie Te Aho. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell