Finding a solution for mortuary water
GISBORNE District Council has started work on the culturally sensitive problem of disposing of mortuary water, and is exploring a land-based system as a possible solution.
A staff report to the environmental planning and regulations committee indicates work has begun on regulating and managing mortuary wastewater.
Mortuary wastewater from the wastewater treatment plant could be diverted to a land-based system
There are two drivers for this work. The iwi view is that it is culturally insensitive for mortuary water to be disposed into the bay because bodily parts are viewed as tapu.
The other driver is the preparation for the eventual discharge of wastewater to land through the wetlands project currently being investigated, and a proposed exclusion of sensitive wastes such as the mortuary wastewater.
In 2009 the independent commissioners granted the resource consents to continue discharging wastewater into the bay, making it clear that the effects of the system on tangata whenua had been a paramount consideration. It was made clear at all times that the continued discharge violated Maori tikanga and had a major effect on the cultural and spiritual sensitivities of tangata whenua.
The committee was told that mortuary water was made up of bodily fluids, embalming preservatives and water used to wash corpses. Currently this waste travels through the wastewater system and treatment plant to be eventually discharged into the sea. The proposed regulation and management would apply to funeral directors and the hospital.
At present this water is considered a conditional trade waste discharge under the Trade Waste Bylaw and does not require special treatment. The proposed solution was to regulate and manage mortuary wastewater.
That would be investigated by completing a feasibility study of the size and scope of the issue and potential options for its removal from the wastewater stream to a land-based septic system on council land.
Staff will investigate regulating the disposal of the water through a mortuary wastewater bylaw. Committee members took the view that while this was an unpleasant subject it was one that had to be dealt with.