The Hawea Community Association (HCA) has grave concerns about the failure of its water supply and wastewater treatment and is seeking answers from the Otago Regional Council (ORC). It’s a problem that doesn’t stand in isolation but is compounded by the fact that a Special Housing Area beyond the Urban Boundary may soon be adding extra pressure to a system which is already at breaking point.
In a letter to ORC, April McKenzie, Chair of the HCA says, “The recent QLDC Annual Report for the Hawea Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) clearly shows that it is failing to comply with its ORC Resource Consent conditions. The WWTP is not coping with the current demand from the Lake Hawea Township let alone demand from growth of multiple new dwellings in Tim’s Field, Sentinel Park and in a number of other urban growth areas inside the Lake Hawea township boundary.”
“The community is also highly concerned about the possibility of unmitigated pollution of the
Hawea River and the Hawea basin aquifer resulting from the ongoing non-compliance of the Lake Hawea WWTP. The community is very concerned that this [SHA] proposal has been sent by QLDC to the Associate Minister for Housing and Urban Development in the face of, amongst other critical matters, grossly inadequate infrastructure.”
QLDC has three proposed stop-gap measures for sewage and wastewater which include temporary storage chambers, truck transfer to another site many kilometres away and onsite temporary treatment. “We fail to see how these options can be successfully overlain on the failing Hawea WWTP,” says April.
According to the HCA, nutrient and E.coli-rich wastewater from the Lake Hawea sewage treatment system is discharged to land via a spray irrigation system (onto an adjacent lucerne paddock) and also discharged via a low-pressure disposal trench into porous gravel along the western boundary of the WWTP.
The Association is also concerned that the WWT system is failing compliance by exceeding the concentration limits for ammoniacal nitrogen, nitrates in, and volumes of the effluent discharged to land as set in ORC consent conditions for the WWTP. There are questions over the fate of nutrient and E.coli rich wastewater going into the drainage trench and under the lucerne paddock.
The response from ORC by Director Environmental Monitoring and Operations Peter Winder was somewhat underwhelming. “In a September 2017 audit, the Hawea Wastewater Treatment Plant was graded as non-compliant,” says Winder. “In order to comply with resource consent conditions, the QLDC was required to supply missing annual report information and a written explanation for exceeding the consent limits, and to demonstrate what steps are being taken to rectify the breaches.”
The response continued to point the finger at QLDC for the failure to supply data despite water management being the responsibility of ORC. The plant has been non-compliant since the current consent was granted in 2010.
In response to HCA’s letter, ORC Councillor Michael Laws said that the failure of the Otago Regional Council to do the “most basic monitoring and compliance work” relating to Hawea’s wastewater treatment plant “will send a shudder through all those who are expecting our organisation to uphold environmental standards in the region.”
“The question arises: what exactly, apart from nothing, are the Otago Regional Council doing to monitor their own consents related to wastewater treatment plants in the Dunstan Ward, and then across the region? It’s simply not good enough,” he said.
“The truth is that the regional council had absolutely no idea that there had been failures at the Hawea wastewater treatment plant, despite it being our job. Even when the Queenstown Lakes District Council put up its hand and said they’d stuffed up at various times, the regional council did nothing. It took a group of concerned locals earlier this month to raise the alarm. “
Cr Laws said that he and fellow Dunstan Ward Councillor Ella Lawton would be meeting the concerned Hawea residents tomorrow (Friday, March 22) to “seek some surety from all parties that discharges of wastewater will not exceed consented limits”.
Concerned residents are welcome to meet in the car park of the Lake Hawea Community Centre, Myra Street, at 11.30am tomorrow to carpool to the treatment plant.