Ill odour leaves town ailing

01:48, Dec 26 2013
The Eltham wastewater treatment plant pond where Fonterra has dumped buttermilk byproduct that is creating a stink with nearby residents.
BIG STINK: The Eltham wastewater treatment plant pond where Fonterra has dumped buttermilk byproduct that is creating a stink with nearby residents.

Eltham's foul-smelling milk mountain has become a serious health hazard.

Taranaki medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman says the "objectionable and offensive" odour of extra Fonterra milk byproduct dumped at the town's wastewater treatment plant could be causing health issues. These included nausea, headaches, retching, difficulty breathing, depression, stress, tearfulness and being woken up at night.

Some residents had reported these symptoms and others expressed concerns about their children's health.

At a recent public meeting to discuss the issue, Dr Jarman found about 80 per cent of residents he surveyed were suffering health problems they believed were related to the stench.

The treatment plant, run by the South Taranaki District Council, has taken on extra material because Fonterra has been unable to cope with spring's record milk production.

That extra waste milk had caused strong odours from the plant.


Dr Jarman strongly urged residents to continue to complain to the Taranaki Regional Council and the STDC every time they smelt the odour from the facility.

"An 80-year-old resident in Castle St told me he lived there for 30 years and this was the worst smell ever," he said.

"When he first smelt it he thought it was something dead inside his house."

The smells were also described as "burning and choking sulphur" by another affected resident, who holds concerns for her children's health.

"Within half an hour of the smell, her family had headaches and felt nauseous," Dr Jarman said.

South Taranaki deputy mayor and Eltham ward councillor Alex Ballantyne said the whole issue was a "disaster".

"I'm mainly concerned at the extreme disappointment and massive stress that has been wreaked upon our community after such good positive progress in recent years," Mr Ballantyne said.

He also said it was "bitterly disappointing" to see the community trust and support that had been built over the last 30 years "shattered in one foul-smelling swoop".

A public meeting was held on December 17 at the Eltham Town Hall for affected residents to voice their concerns.

Dr Jarman carried out an informal survey at the meeting where he found 24 out of the 30 residents suffering from "adverse health effects" as a result of the smell.

Residents were also informed at the meeting that the council would consider "reasonable requests" for compensation such as doctor's visits, dry-cleaning for curtains that have become impregnated with the smell, and reimbursement for the cost of domestic deodorisers/odour neutralisers and other relevant one-off costs.

South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop said "huge efforts" had been put in by the council to alleviate the issue.

Taranaki Daily News