Sewage dis­charge costs $40,000

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE -

Porirua City Coun­cil is to do­nate nearly $ 40,000 to an en­vi­ron­men­tal cause af­ter a ‘‘mas­sive’’ spill of partly treated sewage south of Ti­tahi Bay.

It was es­ti­mated the vol­ume was equiv­a­lent to the daily dis­charge ex­pected from a town of 40,000 people, al­though the Porirua dis­charge last year was di­luted by stormwa­ter.

The coun­cil went the En­vi­ron­ment Court last Thurs­day, with pros­e­cut­ing author­ity the Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil hav­ing agreed to a

to pro­posed penalty of $25,000.

Judge Brian Dwyer said the sug­gested sum was ‘‘grossly in­ad­e­quate’’ for the Porirua coun­cil’s sig­nif­i­cant care­less­ness, which caused a mas­sive dis­charge.

The judge thought the penalty should be pro­por­tion­ate to what would other­wise be an ap­pro­pri­ate fine and the fact the money would come from ratepay­ers did not change that.

But lawyers for both sides sug­gested that, be­cause Porirua ratepay­ers were also ratepay­ers for Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil, a con­ven­tional sen­tenc­ing ap­proach might not ap­ply.

Re­gional coun­cil lawyer Tom Gil­bert said Porirua’s re­sponse had been ex­em­plary and the en­vi­ron­ment would end up bet­ter as a re­sult.

The do­na­tion of $39,375 is to go to the restora­tion of Taka­puwahia Stream at Ti­tahi Bay.

The Porirua coun­cil will be con­victed and dis­charged once the do­na­tion is made.

A com­bi­na­tion of events caused the spill. A sewer broke when heavy rain washed out part of a bank of Kenepuru Stream, which let stormwa­ter en­ter the sewer.

At the time, the ca­pac­ity of the coun­cil’s waste­water treat­ment plant was 40 per cent less than nor­mal be­cause main­te­nance was be­ing done.

A partly blocked grate re­duced the flow to the part of the plant that was still work­ing.

Partly treated waste­water over­flowed and en­tered stormwa­ter drains that flowed into a small stream leading to Ti­rau Bay, south of Ti­tahi Bay. The stream be­came toxic to aquatic life and the bay was un­safe for re­cre­ation, in­clud­ing gath­er­ing shell­fish.

A trainee plant op­er­a­tor no­ticed the over­flow about 9am on Oc­to­ber 12, but as­sumed the stormwa­ter drains would lead to the plant’s reg­u­lar out­fall, not into the stream. He noted it in a log­book and left.

Soon af­ter, a mem­ber of the pub­lic told the re­gional coun­cil the stream be­neath the plant was brown and smelled like sewage. The over­flow stopped about 5.30pm.

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