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Water woes plague South Wairarapa

South Wairarapa’s wastewater treatment plants continue to be plagued with “significant performance issues”.

The district’s drinking water is also not compliant with regulatory requirements, a report to the Wellington Water [WW] Committee states.

The report painted a picture of ageing water infrastructure that is failing to meet water regulation rules and consenting requirements.

The committee, which met last week, discussed at length the water issues facing the wider Wellington region, including “the acute water shortage”, network leaks, and ageing infrastructure.

Wellington Water chief executive Tonia Haskell told the committee that wastewater treatment across the region, “and particularly in South Wairarapa”, is a concern and labelled it “the winter challenge”.

She said there is a widening gap between the ability of the region’s wastewater treatment plants to perform to increased environmental expectations, and the funding available to do so.

“In South Wairarapa, the treatment plants are either out of consent or in breach of consent,” she said.

“It is worth bringing to this committee an assessment of these … and ensure there is a reasonable level of funding going into their upgrade over the next few years in the Long-Term Plan and how that will be best spent.”

The half-year report, presented to the WW Committee, said the Martinborough wastewater treatment plant is “not compliant”, while Featherston, Greytown, and Lake Ferry plants are “compliant but with noted issues”.

“We do not expect these plants will comply with their consent conditions until investment has been made,” the report said.

“To reflect this, we have set a different target for South Wairarapa’s wastewater treatment plants than for the metropolitan wastewater treatment plants in our Statement of Intent.

“Our measure is that we keep the South Wairarapa District Council informed of the risk of non-compliance and the resulting enforcement action from the regulator.”

The report said Featherston’s plant needs additional improvements to achieve compliance with new consent requirements.

“The consent approval process is underway and will better inform the required capacity beyond 2032.”

In Lake Ferry, additional funding is required to understand the current high inflow and infiltration and in Greytown, major investment is needed to mitigate the risk of non-compliance.

An upgrade project is underway, but this does not currently allow for Greytown’s growth.

In Martinborough, the wastewater discharge rate and quality to both land and river exceeds current consent limits.

A “to do” abatement notice was issued last August, replacing an abatement notice from 2022.

Most of the water treatment plants in South Wairarapa are also not compliant.

The Waiohine and Memorial Park plants are currently not compliant with Taumata Arowai’s new rules due to insufficient treatment to meet the source water risk, as well as not having key monitoring instruments installed.

The Martinborough Water Treatment Plant is currently non-compliant with water regulator Taumata Arowai’s new rules due to not having key monitoring instruments installed.

Pirinoa Water Treatment Plant is compliant with new bacterial and protozoal rules, but further work is needed to meet “process assurance rules” such as “development of standard operating procedures”.

In the 2022-23 financial year, Carterton District Council’s drinking water also failed to meet full compliance due to missing data, and Masterton met protozoal compliance but not bacterial compliance.

Under the new reporting and monitoring requirements, contact time with chlorine now needs to be continually monitored.

Equipment has since been upgraded in Masterton.

-NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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