Compliance improving, says Environment Southland

Eleven companies and individuals were prosecuted by Environment Southland for non-compliance in the 2012-13 financial year, but overall compliance is improving, Environment Southland says.

The 2012-13 Environmental Compliance Monitoring Report shows the Environment Southland compliance division dealt with 814 incidents in the past year, a decrease from the previous three financial years.

The report rates Resource Management Act consent holders, from dairy farmers through to local authorities and the Department of Conservation, on their compliance with air quality, water quality, and effluent discharge conditions set out in their consent agreements.

Consent holders are graded from fully compliant to significantly non-compliant.

Of the 814 recorded incidents, 115 led to consent holders being spoken to and given advice, and a further 103 resulted in further action by Environment Southland that included 11 prosecutions, two which are still in process, 16 abatement notices, 34 infringement notices and 42 warning letters.

Among the prosecutions were two for South Pacific Meats.

The company pleaded guilty to four charges relating to the discharge of effluent and silage leachate at its Affco plant in Awarua.

Environment Southland had received notice that effluent from the plant was flowing into the New River Estuary via the open drainage system on the company's land.

Following a defended hearing, South Pacific Meats and Provincial Drainage Ltd were also sentenced on a charge of unlawfully discharging meat-processing effluent onto land at South Pacific Meat's processing plant near Invercargill.

Other prosecutions were against HKT Holdings Ltd, which pleaded guilty to contravening an enforcement order relating to a dam on an unnamed stream at its property at Feldwick, Western Southland. HKT had previously been sentenced on charges relating to the construction of the dam.

On-site dairy farm inspections in 2012-13 revealed most consent holders inspected were fully compliant with consent conditions.

The report says that was driven by a combination of the industry wanting better performance and consent requirements. One non-notified inspection was done on each farm.

Dairy groundwater sampling at 200 sites in Southland showed 32 samples were found to have high levels of nitrate-nitrogen.

Several of these were also associated with E Coli.

For water quality results, 827 sites were visited and 191 samples taken.

Eighty-seven per cent returned a "good" grade, equivalent to last year's results, 11 per cent received were "marginal" and 2 per cent "unsatisfactory", showing activities on the farm appeared to be having an impact on surface-water quality.

Major industries were checked as part of the industrial audit.

Takitimu Coal Ltd breached consent conditions relating to discoloration of the Wairio Stream in October last year.

Bright Wood Sawmill at Otautau scored poorly in providing monitoring data to Environment Southland and in keeping it informed of changes.

The Invercargill City Council, which holds 11 resource consents for treated sewage discharge, had two complaints and three self-reported incidents relating to objectionable odours and sewage discharge between September last year and July.

Three sewage discharge incidents related to an overflow from blocked and broken pipework at Clifton.

The Southland District Council, which holds 19 consents for treated sewage discharge, returned more than 50 breaches of consents across the sites.

These related mainly to exceedances of the maximum daily wastewater flow allowed at individual sites.

The Southland District Council has identified upgrades valued at $50 million needed on several of its wastewater schemes during the next 10 years.

It is also addressing performance issues at the Edendale-Wyndham site where effluent discharged twice exceeded the maximum allowable rate.

The Gore District Council's Mataura sewage site experienced some issues with exceedances in ammoniacal nitrogen - a major component of animal urine - dissolved reactive phosphorus, which can promote growth of nuisance weeds on waterbeds, and total suspended solids, found during sampling on some occasions.

The Southland Times