Affco cops fine after admitting river discharge

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 13:08 11/06/2014

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Beef processing business Affco will have to fork out more than $70,000 after admitting it discharged hundreds of thousands of litres of wastewater from its Feilding plant into the Oroua River.

In the Environment Court in Palmerston North this morning, Affco was convicted and fined $68,000 for discharging wastewater into the river.

They were also ordered to pay $6000 in costs to Horizons Regional Council, as well as yet-to-be finalised legal costs.

On December 11 and 12, 2012, 488,000 litres of wastewater leaked from the meatworks into the river.

While Affco had resource consents to pump wastewater into the river, they were dependant on the water flow in the river.

There had to be river flows of 20,913 litres of water per second, but the highest it got up to on either day was 3176 litres per second.

Furthermore, Affco was only allowed to pump 2000 cubic metres of wastewater per day into the river.

The overflow was spotted by a council inspector, who saw brown fluid entering the river from a drain connected to the wastewater system.

When inspected, it turned out one of the wastewater ponds at the plant had room to take the overflow, and staff had tried to divert the waste there by using sandbags.

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said the discharge was significant, equating to 20 roadside tankers being emptied into the river.

The discharge had come despite extremely high publicity about the state of Manawatu rivers and the fact Affco was a signatory of the Manawatu River Leaders' Accord - a group of organisations dedicated to improving water quality in Manawatu, he said.

''This is a fall from grace from that accord.''

Vanderkolk said the discharge had come at a time when production was at its peak and rivers were flowing at their slowest.

The court could start losing confidence in Affco's shareholders and directors, as the company or its subsidiaries had racked up multiple convictions for discharges, he said.

Defence lawyer Mark Hammond said the discharge was careless, not reckless, due to the way it came about.

When the plant's wastewater ponds start getting too full, they asked a nearby farmer to turn on a tap so the waste would be used for irrigation.

Staff at Affco had asked the farmer's staff to do this, but it was not done.

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- Manawatu Standard

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