Muddy buddies must wait

GOOD CLEAN FUN?: Frano Baird, left, and Kyle Johnson during the Sport Tasman Muddy Buddy event last year
GOOD CLEAN FUN?: Frano Baird, left, and Kyle Johnson during the Sport Tasman Muddy Buddy event last year

A breakdown in communication between Marlborough Lines and the Marlborough District Council over a planned power outage in Havelock resulted in a sewage spill at the Havelock estuary on Saturday.

The spill has meant the second annual Sport Tasman Marlborough Muddy Buddy, due to be held on Sunday, has had to be postponed to May 11. During the event, hundreds of people run and crawl through the estuary around a 750-metre course.

Marlborough Lines operations manager Brian Tapp said the planned outage had been communicated to some customers but not all, including the council. "It was an internal problem that we have found and have now solved," he said.

Council operations and maintenance engineer Stephen Rooney said the spill occurred between 11.20am and 12.20pm, resulting in around 10 cubic litres of sewage entering the estuary.

"An alarm at the pump station went off warning of a high level in the wet well. When we rang Marlborough Lines they didn't know the outage would affect the side. We were told the power would be back on soon but unfortunately it didn't happen in time," he said.

If the council had been made aware of the outage a backup generator would have been installed to keep the pump going, Mr Rooney said.

The spill is considered small but, because it occurred when the tide was out, the sewage flowed onto the mud and was not immediately taken out with the tide. The council and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board have recommended that people stay out of the estuary for at least 28 days to ensure that any pollution has been flushed.

The pump station, which sends sewerage on via another station to the treatment plant on the outskirts of Havelock, had spilled in the past, but the cause was normally from high rainfall, Mr Rooney said.

Organisers of the Muddy Buddy have remained upbeat. Sport Tasman event manager Rita Merriman said entry numbers had been climbing steadily during the past few days and she hoped the new date would see even more people taking part.

Event organiser Jane Miles said they would be emailing everyone who had already entered to advise them of the change of date and offer them a refund if the new date does not suit. "Most people leave it for the day to enter but we have about 50 already, which is great, and we hope they can all make the new date," she said.

Last year, about 280 people of all ages took on the course through the thick mud.

The Marlborough Express