Stench to get worse before it gets better

16:00, Dec 31 2012

The stench from the backed-up Whanganui sewage treatment plant is likely to get better - but first it will get even worse.

City councillor Michael Laws says the smell is so bad, its neighbours deserve compensation.

But mayor Annette Main said the councillor - and former mayor - was simply stirring the proverbial.

The council had been doing everything in its power to stop the stench, including having a team working 18 hours a day, right through the holidays.

Residents had been regularly informed about the saga, with updates emailed every two days to people who had requested information.

No-one had asked for compensation, Ms Main said.


"There are some very, very patient people understanding that we are doing all we can."

A council advisory issued on Friday said workers at the sewage plant were trialling oxygain and bio-augmentation, and nitrates treatment.

Another advisory said the weekend's sulphide dump was expected to start flowing through to the settling pond yesterday, which would ramp up the stench.

Planned maintenance work to upgrade the plant stalled a couple of weeks ago, then a "huge" dump over the weekend from a still-unidentified industrial user overloaded the treatment system.

For the past week and a half, surrounding houses had been affected by an "appalling" odour, Mr Laws said.

"It ruined Christmas for many families . . . [and] I suspect it will also have an ongoing effect upon their property values.

"The council has stuffed up big time, and this has seriously affected the quality of life of many Whanganui residents over the past 10 days to a fortnight."

Those residents worst affected "both require and deserve council compensation", he said last week.

Ms Main said yesterday the problems with the facility needed to be solved "once and for all".

After the New Year break Ms Main said she would talk with key industries who were discharging more than anticipated or consented quantities of trade waste into the system.

Mr Laws said Ms Main's pledge to solve the problem had come too late and was only happening because she had been "politically embarrassed over the festive season".

He said Ms Main had refused his request a month ago for a special council meeting over the "pathetic" situation, which had became "a farce".

Both councillors and senior council management had been "treading water" by not dealing with the problem.

"They are now conceding the problem is not one rogue polluter - it's the plant," Mr Laws said.

The Dominion Post