Eltham milk pong now choking Hawera

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 07:10 08/04/2014
The Eltham wastewater treatment plant pond where Fonterra has dumped buttermilk byproduct that is creating a stink with nearby residents.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax Media

BIG STINK: The Eltham wastewater treatment plant pond where Fonterra has dumped buttermilk byproduct that is creating a stink with nearby residents.

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Eltham's rotting buttermilk pit is now causing a stink in Hawera.

Over the past two weeks, residents living along the northern end of Waihi Rd, State Highway 3, have been swamped by a sickening smell enveloping their homes and businesses.

The Taranaki Daily News can reveal the culprit is festering buttermilk being piped out of the Eltham eader and into the Hawera wastewater treatment plant.

South Taranaki District Council spokesman Gerard Langford said that to speed up the process, they had made a decision to transfer a third of the buttermilk directly to Hawera by pipe, rather than treating it with the rest at Eltham's oxidation pond.

"We hope people understand that any odour associated with transferring the waste will be a temporary measure and thank them for their tolerance," he said.

Last year, Fonterra dumped about 3 million litres of the milk byproduct, along with another 150,000 litres of milk tainted with drilling wastes, at the Eltham plant in an effort to deal with spring's record milk production.

As the milk broke down, people living near the plant were swamped by the putrid smell.

But, as the council works to alleviate that problem, anyone living near one of the sewage pipe's vents has copped a nostril full.

Janet Hooper, who works in Waihi Rd, said the constantly foul odour had made her "dry-retch".

"The smell hits you and it's embarrassing because we were thinking there was something dead here," she said. "The [district] council should have told us it was coming because at least we would have known what it was."

Len Millar, who lives near one of the vents, said he was willing to put up with the smell if it solved Eltham's woes.

"It shocks me that we are smelling it down here," he said. "We will be thanking our lucky stars we haven't been living in Eltham and having to put up with it 10 times stronger."

He said he expected to have a few odours near farm land but this was something different. "It's no stronger than the smell of silage, I quite like the sweet silage smell, but I don't like this one."

Langford said that most of the 18 kilometre-long pipe runs under farm land before joining the Hawera sewer network.

"There are a couple of venting points where some intermittent odour has escaped and we are taking action to solve this issue," he said.

"We are fitting odour scrubbers, filters, on the venting points to remove or minimise any odour.

"This technique is successfully used on sewer networks in many other towns and cities."

The council has so far received only three complaints about the odour and the Taranaki Regional Council has received one.

Langford said although they were focusing all their energies on solving the problem, council would review the entire event.

"To date, we have pumped out approximately 3.3 million litres from the eader. At the current rate, using these two processes, we expect the eader to be emptied of the liquid waste within four weeks."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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