TRC cracking down hard on landfarms

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014

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A landfarm operator has been told to clean up its act after its continued failure to follow the rules.

The Taranaki Regional Council has declared it will crack down on landfarm operators if they don't lift the bar in their environmental performance and reporting of data.

Remediation NZ Limited, which operates a drilling waste landfarm in Manutahi, was given the lowest grade possible for compliance with resource consent conditions by the council in its 2012/2013 regulatory report.

Incidents included cows found grazing on drilling waste not fully treated and waste liquid leaking out of full storage pits. "It's the worst level of performance in recent times," environmental manager Keith Brodie said.

The company had three incidents recorded against its name, one warning notice and a $750 fine for allowing drilling muds to leak on to land.

Landfarming is the process of spreading oil drilling waste across marginal land. The soil breaks down the waste and new pasture is sown on top.

The practice drew attention last year when Fonterra announced it would no longer pick up milk from landfarms, although it continues to collect milk from six landfarms in Taranaki.

In one inspection of Remediation NZ's landfarm, council officers found cattle grazing within the waste spreading area, which had recently been spread but not yet tilled or sown.

Environmental quality director Gary Bedford said cows should not have been grazing in the area before the soil met the guidelines laid out by the Ministry of Environment.

Another inspection revealed raw waste liquid was leaking out of two storage pits which had been filled above capacity.

Remediation NZ managing director Kerry O'Neill said they had made some operational mistakes and these were part of the learning process.

"Nobody goes out deliberately to infringe. We made some basic mistakes in the process which we've addressed.

"It's about getting the process right and we've certainly got better at that."

Mr O'Neill said the public could be confident that the council had strict conditions regulating landfarming and a company did not get away with breaching them.

Council chairman David MacLeod questioned whether the council was being strict enough with companies which did not provide monitoring data on time.

Last year Remediation NZ was late providing its data despite being issued a reminder.

Councillor Roger Maxwell said the company should not be allowed to get away with dodging the rules.

Councillor Michael Joyce said the company seemed to be displaying blatant arrogance in its failure to readily provide data, which should not be tolerated.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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