The long-awaited and controversial Waitara sewerage project is nearing completion and will come in $3 million under budget.
The final stage - converting the Waitara wastewater treatment plant to a pumping station - begins this week.
"Once this conversion is done, in five to six weeks' time, Waitara's wastewater will be pumped to the New Plymouth wastewater treatment plant and this three-year project will be finished, bar some final commissioning," said New Plymouth District Council projects manager Andrew Barron.
Waitara resident and former councillor Clive Pryme said the news was music to his ears.
"That is pleasing to hear; we've been waiting for that for 15 years," he said. "It means we can take down the notices warning people not to swim in the sea or take shellfish. Perhaps we can start encouraging people to come down and enjoy the marine park."
As a councillor, Pryme had watched firsthand as the project was continually delayed with each budget. "We were supposed to come on-stream well before Oakura. I was not happy when we were delayed for them," he said.
After many years of delays, the pipeline was then pegged for construction in 2009, but, during the austerity drives of the global recession in 2008-2009, the project was once again pushed back, this time till 2015.
However, public pressure put the project back on the table and it was given the green light by council in mid 2011.
In the three years since construction started, a 13.6 kilometre pipeline linking the towns' plants has been built and the New Plymouth plant has been upgraded to handle the new load.
In 2011, it was estimated that the pipeline would cost $14m, but yesterday the council said the pipeline and conversion of the Waitara plant would cost $9.8m - $3.1m under budget.
Although Pryme is looking forward to taking down public health warning signs in Waitara, he will have to wait another five to six weeks until the Waitara plant's lime-tanks have been closed.
During this time wastewater will be treated with sodium hypochlorite before being discharged into the sea 1.25km off the coast as normal.
The regional council will monitor water quality along Waitara Beach, and the district council will monitor sodium hypochlorite levels at the pumping station.
Notices advising the public to avoid taking shellfish from the area will be put up ahead of time.
"This is only a precaution," Barron said.
"We're confident with the treatment system but it's wise to not take any risks to health."
- Taranaki Daily News
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