Wānaka Sun       

Council elaborates further on costs of wastewater discharges

Posted at 6:01am Thursday 29 Aug, 2019 | By Allison McLean journalist@thewanakasun.co.nz

Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) said each unintended wastewater overflow from Council-owned and operated wastewater networks can cost ratepayers in the order of $25,000 to $40,000 in fines. Last Thursday, QLDC issued a statement about these costs involved with Otago Regional Council (ORC) prosecutions when it comes to 'occasional overflow events that are already occurring.' 

Council also used the opportunity to remind ratepayers that QLDC lodged a resource consent application with ORC last April to authorise 'minor overflows from QLDC's wastewater network.'

"This is not about deliberately discharging wastewater into lakes as has been suggested by some," said QLDC general manager of property and infrastructure Peter Hansby. "There is a reality that, given the behaviour of users of the wastewater network and its proximity to water, these overflows will occasionally occur and these result in costly prosecutions by ORC. These discharges are not the norm, and the application we have made is far from seeking permission to pollute.”

“The approach recognises that in a system that is largely built close to water there is an existing and constant risk of discharge, no matter how well the system is built or maintained. Sometimes these occur as a result of pipe failure and sometimes through blockages that result from inappropriate use of the wastewater system (discharge of large quantities of fats, construction material and the like) and intrusion by tree roots,” said Hansby.

He said improving the network remains Council's core intention. “QLDC is primarily concerned with upgrading the growing network, and has no desire to allow or encourage discharges. This application in no way implies a lessening of standards and the scale of our $105M investment into wastewater systems for the district should reassure residents that we are taking the management of wastewater very seriously. However, these discharges are caused by blockages that result from inappropriate use of the wastewater system and intrusion by tree roots. While the Council has systems in place to reduce more slowly occurring events like tree root intrusion, the discharges caused by individual actions are effectively impossible to eliminate.”

If the resource consent is granted, Council said it can focus on investing in wastewater infrastructure and education to further reduce the risk of these overflow events, rather than paying fines because the discharges are unauthorised.

The application was publicly notified by ORC at QLDC's request.

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