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Important wastewater decisions need community feedback

30 Jun 2017

Important wastewater decisions need community feedback

Wastewater issues in the bay and rivers will be an important part of the upcoming consultation on the Long Term Plan with our community.

“A key challenge for the community will be applying a limited budget to competing projects across the Long Term Plan, including the DrainWise and Wastewater Management Option projects,” says community lifelines director David Wilson.

Although the next Long Term Plan won’t be formalised until next year, it’s important that options for major issues and projects are explained and discussed so everyone knows how and where their rates money is being spent.

“The more information about our projects we make available, the better our community can make informed decisions on what goes ahead.”

“We’d like to know, how people want to be engaged and what’s the best way to receive feedback,” said Mr Wilson.

Removing wastewater from the bay

The construction of the Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2010 was the first step in improving water quality in the bay.

A condition of the resource consent required Council to investigate further treatment options to include alternative use and disposal options with the possibility of abandoning the outfall pipe altogether.

As a minimum, Council would have to undertake further treatment which included clarification and UV treatment.

“Since then, Council has undertaken a significant amount of work to consider viable options to further improve the wastewater quality, identify where it could be disposed, and consider any beneficial uses.”

Community based advisory groups the Wastewater Technical Advisory Group (WTAG), Wastewater Management Committee (WMC), and Wastewater Options Review Group (WORG) were set up to help develop or assess viable options for Council and ultimately our community to consider.

These groups brought a balance which considered not only the cost but also environmental, cultural and social considerations.

“Council is in the final stages of working out what the best long term Wastewater management option is.

A large number of treatment improvement options have been investigated, including wetland systems. The work of the advisory groups has largely been completed and the final step for them is for the WMC to make recommendations to Council,” said Mr Wilson.

The timeline for making decision on option/s to take forward into the Long Term Plan (LTP) process:

  • 11July – The WMC meeting. The outcomes of the WORG and Council work will be presented and the WMC will make a recommendation to Council on their preferred option(s).
  • 20July – Future Tairawhiti meeting. The preferred wastewater management option(s) will be presented to and workshopped with full Council, to bring all councillors up to speed with the detail.
  • 17 August – Full Council meeting. A decision will be made on which option(s) to include in the pre-consultation phase of the LTP. Whilst the results of the feasibility studies have given Council a range of possible options to manage the wastewater, pre-consultation is required to get an idea of how much the community is willing to pay for wastewater treatment.
  • 17 August to 14 December – Early engagement phase of the LTP. This will be a key opportunity to have your say on which management option you prefer.
  • 14 December – Full Council meeting. A decision will be made on which option to take forward into the formal consultation phase of the LTP.

DrainWise difference

While the Wastewater Management Options Project (formerly known as the Wetlands Project), focuses on further improving wastewater quality and disposal, the DrainWise project focuses on wastewater and stormwater drainage issues in our pipe network and on private property so we can reduce the number of wastewater discharges into rivers.

Water utilities manager Neville West says during heavy rain an excessive amount of rainwater is draining into wastewater pipes – a significant amount from drains on private properties.

“The pipes fill up and when they’re at capacity the wastewater has nowhere else to go but to overflow out of wastewater pipes and manholes onto private properties and roads.

“The only way to stop this is opening scour valves that allow some of the wastewater in the pipes to flow into our rivers.

“Although this wastewater is highly diluted with rainwater, there are still significant concerns, including health risks,” says Mr West.

DrainWise includes a programme of public and private work and other actions which include compliance monitoring, pipe upgrades, gully trap improvements, improving drainage on properties, and fixing leaky pipes that will reduce the amount of stormwater getting into wastewater pipes.

People who are interested in receiving information on the wastewater options for consultation can register their contact details with comms@gdc.govt.nz or call 06 867 2049.

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