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River dump human error

A report will investigate two wastewater dumps into the Ruamahanga River. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

Details of dumping to be made public

MARCUS ANSELM
[email protected]

Human error and equipment failure were behind two unauthorised discharges of almost 500,000 litres of wastewater into the Ruamahanga River.

The unauthorised discharges could incur penalties from Greater Wellington Regional Council.

South Wairarapa councillors discussed a draft report on the water dumps at its monthly meeting in Martinborough on Wednesday.

Two different incidents last month ended in spills into the river, and surrounding land.

On January 15, an estimated 90,000 litres of partially treated wastewater from the treatment plant flowed into the river, and another 10,000 on neighbouring land.

On January 31, the council and infrastructure partners Wellington Water said a further 100,000 litres of partially treated wastewater and 300,000 litres of fully treated wastewater entered the river earlier that week.

At the meeting, Wellington Water’s Ian McSherry apologised for the dumps, and for the delay in notifying the council.

McSherry said although the environmental impact was limited, he agreed to further testing called by councillors and Maori standing committee members present.

“We’ve basically had two failures really,” McSherry said.

“The first was where there was human error, and the second was a failure in the system, both while a piece of kit has been out for maintenance.”

Further work to safeguard the process is under way in Wellington and Martinborough. Processes and communication were being improved, as part of wider work on upgrading the district’s infrastructure.

Councillors asked WW to consider alarm systems and ensure system redundancy to reduce the risk of further leaks during maintenance.

The full report would be tabled at the council’s assets and services committee in two weeks’ time.

Penalties from the regional council may occur, depending on findings of the report.

A WW spokesperson said a draft report covering both incidents had been provided to South Wairarapa District Council.

A final version would be considered by the council’s assets and services committee on February 19.

The details of each incident would be publicly available after the committee meeting.

Tight water restrictions remain in place in the district.

Meanwhile, Masterton District Council has loosened its restrictions.

Garden watering restriction have been eased after rain in the Tararua range boosted flows in the Waingawa River.

Sprinklers can be used at houses with odd numbers on odd-numbered days, and at even-numbered houses on even days. Handheld hoses can continue to be used on any day.

MDC’s David Hopman said forecast rain indicated the restriction could stay in place until at least early next week, but he reminded gardeners to monitor restriction levels.

“The situation can change quickly, but we are hopeful of keeping the current restriction in place until after the weekend.

“We appreciate the efforts of householders to conserve water, and we want to respond to the higher flow levels by easing the restriction to sprinklers on alternate days while we can.”

A total outdoor ban remains in Carterton and Tararua districts.

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