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“Manawatū residents whose drinking water is contaminated with chemicals from toxic firefighting foam will have to wait until 2021 for a long-term solution.

The groundwater and soil around Ōhakea air force base is contaminated with PFAS, a chemical found in a variety of products, including non-stick cookware and some food wrappers.

It was also in firefighting foam previously used at the base. The PFAS leached into the surrounding area.

The chemical is notoriously slow at breaking down in a natural environment. PFAS is expected to stay around Ōhakea for as long as 125 years over an area as large as 1600 hectares.

Landowners near the base have been getting water shipped in since the PFAS discovery became public in 2017.

A long-term solution is in the pipeline and the Government is paying 75 per cent of the $14.4 million cost for a water scheme in the area.

The scheme, to be managed by the Manawatū District Council, will pipe in clean water to PFAS-afflicted properties.

When announcing the funding in December 2019, Environment Minister David Parker said much of the design work was already done and construction was to begin in 2020.

But the council has not applied for a resource consent, as of Tuesday.

Council general manager of infrastructure Hamish Waugh​ said the scheme should be up and running by Christmas 2021 and the consent application filed ‘sooner rather than later’.

The only part of the project needing a consent was the water source, with a site near Sanson’s supply the best choice…”