Councils refute Radio New Zealand allegations

Published on February 25, 2021

Media release placeholder

Whanganui District Council and Horizons Regional Council Media Release

Whanganui District Council Chief Executive, Kym Fell, says incorrect and misleading assertions were made today in a Radio New Zealand article about Whanganui’s wastewater treatment plant.

He says the article’s claim that the council’s wastewater treatment plant “dumped” raw sewage into the sea off a Whanganui beach is absolutely incorrect.

“It is completely wrong to say raw sewage was put out to sea – on the three occasions referred to the wastewater treatment plant was operating as usual, meaning only treated sewage, screened and processed in the usual way, was released from the treatment plant,” Kym Fell says.

The elevated readings recorded on the three occasions were a temporary spike caused by extremely strong onshore winds blowing the treated material back towards the shore, resulting in a temporarily higher concentration of enterococci bacteria in the water at the sewage outfall where the test was taken.

Enterococci and faecal coliform bacteria in the water are measured in cfu, which stands for ‘colony forming units’.

On occasion onshore winds will affect cfu levels close to the shore. Because it takes two weeks for these tests to be processed, by the time the council receives the results the incident has passed.

Kym Fell says it’s crucial to note that over the course of the year the median level is required to be below 35 cfu per 100ml and during the reporting period Whanganui District Council’s recorded median was a very low 4 cfu per 100 ml.

During December, January and February, periods referred to in Radio New Zealand’s story, the council took weekly recordings at six different locations, as required.

Horizons Regional Council regulatory manager, Greg Bevin, says Whanganui District Council’s wastewater treatment plant resource consent with Horizons covers a multitude of parameters and consent conditions. 

“With the exception of faecal coliform, by all other accounts Whanganui District Council has been compliant,” Greg Bevin says. 

“We are currently in discussions with Whanganui District Council with regards to their faecal coliform readings, which recently show that compliance with this standard has been achieved 74 percent of the time as opposed to the required 90 percent.”

Tagged as: