The dumped-milk stench which has distressed and debilitated Eltham residents since last spring is ending up in court.
Taranaki Regional Council director of resource consents Fred McLay confirmed yesterday the council had laid charges against the South Taranaki District Council and Fonterra for breaches of the Resource Management Act.
"The charges relate to offensive and objectionable odours caused by the disposal and treatment of Fonterra dairy products at the STDC Eltham Wastewater Treatment facility.
"While the matter is before the court the council is unable to make any further comment," McLay said.
Both the South Taranaki District Council and Fonterra confirmed yesterday they were being prosecuted under the RMA.
Papers have been filed and the case is expected to come before the New Plymouth District Court in September.
South Taranaki council spokesman Gerard Langford confirmed the charges were laid in response of the Eltham odour.
"It was not unexpected," Langford said.
The council was working closely with the TRC and conducting a review to make sure it would not happen again.
Projects were under way to optimise processing capabilities at all plants to ensure there would not be a repeat, a Fonterra spokesman said. he said.
The stench was caused by Fonterra dumping three million litres of buttermilk along with another 150,000 litres of milk tainted with drilling wastes at the Eltham Wastewater Treatment Plant. The milk was dumped during last spring's record milk production.
By December, when all efforts to control the stench had failed, the Taranaki medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman stepped in to say the smell was a serious health hazard.
He told a public meeting on December 17 that his survey found 80 per cent of residents were suffering health problems they attributed to the stench. Residents were affected by nausea, headaches, retching, difficulty breathing, depression, stress, tearfulness and lack of sleep, he said.
He urged people to complain to the TRC.
The South Taranaki council acknowledged the health hazard, offering affected residents vouchers for doctors' visits, short-term accommodation and movies.
At the same time, deputy mayor Alex Ballantyne, who lives near the plant, described the whole issue as a disaster that had caused massive stress on the community and destroyed trust.
An odour suppression system was also installed in the plant.
In February the council estimated it would cost up to $400,000 to correct.
- Taranaki Daily News
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