The plan for discharging treated wastewater to the land alarms farmers

Palmerston North's Totara Rd wastewater treatment plant will need a major overhaul.


Palmerston North’s Totara Rd wastewater treatment plant will need a major overhaul.

Most of the wastewater from Palmerston North is most likely highly treated for discharge to the Manawatū River, with an increasing amount being diverted to land.

Nature Calls’ preferred option is being considered by Palmerston North City Council on Wednesday.

But farmers in the area between the city and the coast, where up to 2,000 hectares could possibly be needed for on-land disposal, say the plan is flawed.

Peter Wells, spokesperson for the Federated Farmers Membership Food and Fiber Forum, said soil types were not properly analyzed and landowners were not properly consulted on the implications for their lives and livelihoods.

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The group wrote to councilors asking them to delay the decision until more work on soils, finance and management is done.

Otherwise, the group would support the option favored by iwi, for high level treatment and discharge into the river, with minimal discharge to the ground.

The city council meeting that will consider the recommendation was postponed last week due to the sheer size and complexity of the nearly 900 pages of documents presented to councilors.

It is now taking place virtually, given the extension of the level 4 Covid-19 alert lockdown in New Zealand.

The recommendation the advisers have before them is a hybrid of three previous mixed river and land dump options, with approximate costs ranging from $ 350 million to $ 550 million.

The volumes to be diverted to land, thanks to a stepwise approach, could reach between 23 and 53% of the total volumes.

Chief City Council Engineer Robert van Bentum’s report asks councilors to confirm that the project team gave the right weight to various aspects, including public comment and iwi interests.

Maori stocks were given a weight of 20% and other community feedback only 5%, as staff and consultants were not convinced that they were strong and representative of all views of the community.

The Maori opposed an oceanic outfall, an option that performed well on several other measures, but was rejected due to cultural values.

Van Bentum said the second best option was for the river’s flow, with 23 percent ashore, increasing to 43 percent, or 53 percent.

This would include considering areas where treated wastewater could be used beneficially, for example, irrigation of parks and golf courses, recharge of new or degraded wetlands and agricultural irrigation.

Wells said farmers knew future management of wastewater for the next 35 to 50 years was a difficult one, but their conclusion was that discharge over a significant area of ​​land, increasing over time, was flawed.

He said most of the proposed land is expected to be outside the city limits where affected parties and communities had not been properly consulted.

Wells said the land that would be designated as suitable for dumping had not been identified.

Farmers knew that most of the land the council was likely to consider was poorly drained and unsuitable.

The concept of growing feed for livestock on land irrigated with human sewage would not work, as this feed could not be fed to dairy cows.

The town hall is legally required to submit a resource authorization request for the future sanitation system to the Horizons Regional Council by June 2022.


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