Te Anau sewage overflowing

Might I ask how many Southland people know just what happens to Te Anau's sewage at present, and what the ramifications of the Southland District Council's application to discharge waste water land at Manapouri are?

I doubt many have the true picture.

For many years, Te Anau's sewage, industrial wastes and pharmaceutical residues have been pumped into three unlined settlement ponds located on the flood plains of the Upukerora River about 600 metres from Lake Te Anau.

The ponds were formed by excavating the old river delta gravels and building stopbanks with the excavated material.

The ponds are unlined and built in porous river gravels. Therefore, for all these years, the sewage, residues and other ''nasties'' have been, and still are, leaching through the gravels into the ground waters and ultimately flowing into Lake Te Anau.

That is a fact.

The ponds are at, or just short of, capacity, and the ''overflow waters'' - that is, untreated sewage - are presently run off through an open channel gravel drain system, situated below the ponds, to remove sewer solids and colouring before the water is piped into the Upukerora River, which flows into the lake.

Do I hear you say ''that's not good''? But it gets worse.

Presently before Environment Southland is an application from the Southland District Council for resource consent to discharge Te Anau wastewater on to land and to air at Manapouri.

This application is due to be heard by ''out-of-town'' commissioners in the near future.

The district council's plan is to pump the untreated Te Anau ''overflow'' wastewater 19km to the Te Anau-Manapouri airport and spray it on to grasslands surrounding the airport.

It is anticipated that the irrigated grasses will absorb the nitrogen and phosphorus that is abundant in the waters and this will in turn be digested by the animals that eat the grass.

Other contaminants not absorbed by the grass will filter into the soils and groundwater and eventually flow into the Waiau River and on into Lake Manapouri.

Does that sound fair and reasonable?

This letter, like the issue itself, is To Be Continued ...

Te Anau

The Southland Times