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‘Ocean is not a dump’

Pathogens are still getting into the bay from Gisborne’s wastewater treatment plant, councillor Amber Dunn told the wastewater management committee.

She told the committee the marine environment was not a dump and the council was behind on its target date for installing the next stage of treatment at the plant.

Her comments came as the committee considered a report on operational monitoring requirements for the plant.

'Ten years behind schedule'The best example of that was in the original 2009 consent clause, which said the BTF plant commissioning would occur in 2010, UV disinfection by December 2012 and in any event no later than December 31, 2014.

It was now 2018. Now the plans were saying they would get to it in 2023.

“We are 10 years behind schedule.”

Treated versus partially-treated wastewaterThe report said a significant difference was found in untreated versus partially-treated wastewater within the treatment plant.

“I think we need to remind ourselves that we have not quite finished the treatment plant yet.

“We have done stage one but we have not done stage two.

The comment about the difference between treated and untreated water was only true within the perimeters of what the council was doing, she said.

“What if we change those perimeters?”

What if the council measured the contaminants going through the plant, would they still be satisfied with its performance? No, they would not.

If they focused on pathogen removal they would not be happy.

Maybe if they had that sort of information there would be much greater urgency towards completing stage two.

“I also think we need to accept that human waste is more than what we ablute and what we pass through our bodies.

“We are talking about what goes through our kitchens, bathrooms and our laundries.

“We are talking about pathogens and chemical contaminants.

“They are serious concerns that I still have.”

The report listed locations where the BTF discharge was monitored.

The council should keep details of domestic and industrial discharge quality separately, she said.

“If we don’t keep them separately and we find we are not complying with the outfall consent, then we have no way of enforcing who is not complying.

“We need to keep the industrial and the domestic stream separate. We absolutely need to have that information.”

Contaminants ‘should be removed at source’Amber Dunn said she was worried by the section of the report that said the monitoring did not take into account where in the bay the contaminants were likely to accumulate over time.

“I am not quite sure what we are getting at there.”

“But I, for one, sit at this table and I do not want to allow any contaminants in the marine environment. I want them removed at source at the treatment plant through additional treatment steps before any discharge into the bay.

“Once it is in the bay, it is over. We are just going to end up having a list a of contaminated marine sites in the bay. I just think that prevention is better than cure.

The council needed to capture pathogen contaminants, she said.

“The marine environment is not a dump for these marine contaminants. They are as dangerous to marine life as they are to human life.”

With a better understanding of these contaminants, which previous studies showed were growing, they would come to appreciate that a wetlands stage was absolutely vital in the future.

The report talked about plume monitoring.

“What if we flushed the BTF at midday every day instead of midnight. Would we still be plume-free or what would we see?”

While they were saying the operation was good within the present perimeters, they needed to broaden their horizons because there was stuff that they were not monitoring that was really hazardous to humans and the environment.

District Council lifelines director David Wilson agreed with what she was saying. This was why they were reviewing monitoring conditions, he said.

He agreed there were persistent contaminants going through the plant that they had no no way of treating. But it would be presumptuous to start the work until they had details of the review of the consent.