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Wastewater plant in for scrutiny

Opinion Piece

Gisborne’s wastewater treatment plant is in for some intensive scrutiny as the deadline nears for renewal of its resource consent, with three separate investigations of how it is performing.

Heading the process is the independent review panel which will make recommendations in regard to clause 22 of the existing consent. This crucial clause includes technical aspects of the plant, alternative use and disposal options, monitoring requirements and the Turanganui a Kiwa water quality enhancement project.

The panel of experts undertakes a review every six years as a condition of the existing consent, and is expected to complete this one in time for the wastewater management committee’s October meeting — a significant one.

Also due to report then is the consent review group charged with reviewing the existing consent conditions. This group of 20 includes council staff and iwi representatives as well as independent specialists.

A group of council staff are also conducting an audit of the plant’s compliance with consent conditions.

All this activity comes as the December 31 deadline approaches for the council to lodge its variation to the existing consent. Obviously it is essential that the plant is performing for that to be granted.

It was a little concerning therefore to read in the wastewater committee’s annual report that one of three laboratory tests for effluent toxicity from last summer was “slightly above” the limit. Procedural problems with the independent laboratory caused the results of one test to be inadmissible. Further tests will come this summer.

The consent application covers phase one of the proposed upgrade, which includes adding clarification, solids removal and UV disinfection to the Banks Street plant over 10 years, at a cost of $23 million.

Phase two, which includes a wetlands to allow alternative use and disposal of the waste, is on the backburner at the moment with no potential site yet identified.

The council will be hoping its consent application goes smoothly, with the process expected to take from six to nine months depending on whether an Environment Court hearing is needed.