Dye spill stains Auckland harbour

Last updated 15:30 02/07/2013

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Dead fish and eels are appearing in the Manukau Harbour after nearly 1000 litres of violet dye spilled into a waterway in the Auckland suburb of Mangere.

The dye escaped from a bulk container in the industrial area beside Auckland Airport and flowed into the stormwater system yesterday.

It then entered the Oruarangi Stream before flowing into the Manukau Harbour between Oruarangi Rd and Puketutu Island.

Te Werena Taua, spokesman for the Makarau Marae and Tainui hapu Te Kawerau a Maki, said they first noticed the spill yesterday morning.

''It's turned both sides of the whole creek, right out into the harbour, purple. It's horrific given that we have been part of the clean-up of the creek for a number of years,'' he said.

Iwi were now concerned about the long-term effects the dye could have.

''Our kids come down here and they play. They fish everyday and we don't know if the fish are going to be edible and how the discharge is going to effect the whole place,'' Taua said.

Neighbouring vineyard Villa Maria Estate was quick to inform Auckland Council and their neighbours of the spill when they noticed the wine-coloured river.

''And also let them know it wasn't us,'' executive director Fabian Yukich said.

''But we were very concerned.''

Auckland Council said it was too early to say whether there would be any long-term effects from yesterday's spill.

''We're working with the company responsible for the leak to determine what went wrong,'' a council spokeswoman said.

The council wouldn't identify the company, but said the dye was used in the printing process to colour things such as food trays used in the agricultural indutry for fruit.

Council staff were now working to get tidal Oruarangi Stream back to its natural state and restore water quality.

''The stream banks and bed might take a bit longer to completely restore as the dye has turned them purple, which makes the stream look more polluted than it actually is,'' the spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman said its pollution response team worked at containment and clean up at the site of the spill yesterday.

''Due to the nature of the dye it has spread significantly and recovery of the dye is not a viable option due to its soluble properties.''

It was hoped the dye, which was thought to be a mild irritant, would be dispersed by the tide.

The council was unsure of the safety of eating fish from the harbour or swimming in it and has referred the issue to Auckland Regional Public Health Service, which was now investigating.

New Zealand Bird Rescue worker at the Manukau branch Hilary Stollery said the dye could have a disastrous effect on birds.

The dye could leave birds unable to fly if it effects their feathers, she says. It could also leave them starving if it kills the worms, crabs and oysters they feed on in the area.

More concerning was the proximity of the spill to Puketutu Island, she said,

''That is one of the most densely populated areas of  New Zealand native and shore birds. You have everything there, all the wading birds, dotterels and the royal spoonbill.''

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It's now a waiting game to see what the effects will be, Stollery said.

Anyone who sees any distraught or purple birds in the area should contact Stollery on (09) 262 2260.

- Stuff

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