Council escapes river censure

EMMA GOODWIN AND JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:04 24/11/2012

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Palmerston North City Council will not be punished for polluting Manawatu River with black sludge from its wastewater treatment plant, but it is in trouble for creating a stink.

Sludge from the wetland pond at the plant oozed into the Manawatu River almost two weeks ago during a malfunction.

The city council told Horizons Regional Council about the discharge as soon as it became apparent and no non-compliance notice was issued.

Horizons spokeswoman Caroline Rowe said because the city council alerted the regional council to the problem and was trying to fix it, such a notice was not relevant.

She said it was consistent with how the regional council dealt with dairy farming operations.

The city council said the pond and the rock passage to the river were closed and fully treated effluent from the Totara Rd plant was now being discharged directly into the river.

The wetland pond and associated rock passage were part of the plant's 2007 upgrade to meet cultural concerns.

The city council has engaged a consultant to investigate the wetland pond issue.

Meanwhile Horizons has acted on complaints of a strong smell from the plant in recent weeks.

Mrs Rowe said the smell was a breach of the permitted activity rule and city council had been issued a formal warning.

City council waste and water services manager Rob Green said the cause of the smell had been investigated, and mitigation work was expected to be carried out.

Weather conditions were suspected of contributing to the smell, and would also affect the timetable for remedial work.

The work would be carried out subject to approval.

The fresh problems arise as the city council grapples with long-term problems with the quality of the city's discharge.

High levels of phosphorus were measured in the river in an extensive joint water quality testing last summer.

The results confirmed the plant was having a significant adverse effect on aquatic life downstream, which is a breach of the discharge consent.

The city council is investigating the causes of the high phosphorus levels and an action plan for monitoring and remedial work is being tabled at its council meeting next week.

City councillor Chris Teo Sherrell said he believed the council needed to be given a deadline to sort the problem out.

"A line needs to be drawn in the sand by Horizons for the city to deal with this issue because we can't keep looking for things and how to solve it or it could go on forever."

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- Manawatu Standard

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