Mysterious plumes in harbour likely soot from ship
Ominous black plumes seen in Lyttelton Harbour are thought to have been left by a departing ship.
At least four long, black streaks were first seen in the harbour late last week.
They covered a large area and were clearly visible off Governors Bay, close to the shore.
They were still there several days later, to the concern of residents. One said a dog had gone into the water and returned completely black.
After several complaints from the public, Environment Canterbury (ECan) first suggested the substance was coal dust from Lyttelton Port.
After further investigation, it now believed the plumes were soot from a ship.
"Further investigation shows the substance is likely to be soot from the stack of a departing vessel, not coal dust as first thought," regional leader investigations and incident response Valyn Barrett said.
"We are working with Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) to do further testing on the substance.
"While it covers a reasonable area it is non-toxic to marine life."
Test results were expected next week, he said.
While it may not be toxic, locals worried the substance was spoiling an otherwise pristine environment.
Governors Bay resident John Thacker first saw the plumes late last week, and said they were still there several days later.
"We look straight out onto the harbour and each day it seemed to get worse. It seems to become more concentrated," he said.
"It's just absolutely terrible... A dog went in, for instance, and came out black.
"What about it washing up on the shore and ruining the beaches we've got there? What about all the sea life that siphons the water through their system?
"It's full of mud snails, and the birds go there – the stilts and the oystercatchers.
"You can't tell me it's not affecting the area."
An LPC spokeswoman referred a request for comment to ECan.