Is Envirofert unfairly being blamed over incorrect assumptions?
It is said ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ At a glance we can make assumptions and sometimes false accusations based purely on a picture itself. Is it fair to do so? Sometimes yes, but in this particular case, maybe not.
It is very easy to lay blame or point fingers at something that is unpopular, or that has the ability to stir up emotions just by mentioning its name.
Envirofert Ltd is a company that operates a compost business, as well as a Cleanfill site, in Tuakau. It is no secret that certain neighbours are at odds with the business itself, the practice, and the consents that have been issued to them by the Waikato Regional Council.
The Post Newspaper was presented with a number of photos that showed a “sucker” truck which is owned by a local septic tank cleaning company, discharging what looked similar to raw sewerage. As a result, an assumption was made due to the signage on the truck and the liquid being released. All the alarm bells went off and I thought I was staring at an environmental disaster, and look, I have the pictures to prove it.
Upon looking at the picture, it is easy to assume that it is faecal matter, especially when it is being pumped from a truck that is also used for cleaning septic tanks and collecting sewerage.
The Post immediately contacted the Waikato Regional Council, Envirofert, and the company that was pictured discharging the liquid. We posed a number of questions to each of the parties involved, who were extremely helpful, polite and concerned over the conclusion we reached by looking at the photos only. What follows is the response from Waikato Regional Council.
The following information comes from Stephen Ward of the Waikato Regional Council.
“One of our resource officers visited the Envirofert Ltd site on the morning of Thursday 12 January 2017 to undertake a site inspection, during which the site manager was very co-operative as usual. The cleanfill was inspected and there was no sign of raw sewage or similar material, which would have been highly odorous if present. No such odour was detected, only a low level mud-type odour was detected.”
“However, as a precautionary check, samples were taken of the material which was still wet. These have been sent to a laboratory to test for faecal coliforms, with the results expected late next week.
“Envirofert has provided a visit record of the ‘septic tank truck’ concerned, which deposited its loads at the site on Monday. The site manager states the loads were drilling mud from a local development. This description is consistent with the material observed at the site by our resource officer. Drilling mud is inert and permitted to be deposited at the site under their resource consents. It should be noted that ‘sucker’ trucks like those which deposited the material, are commonly used for a variety of jobs, not solely for emptying septic tanks.”
Mr Ward says the site legally undertakes an operation of receiving reject packaged products (including milk) from dairy factories.
“The site separates the packaging and product (which is on-sold and removed from the site). It then bales up the leftover containers which are then removed from the site and recycled. During the site inspection, the resource officer did not identify anything of concern regarding plastic milk bottles or similar.”
“A flock of black backed gulls was observed on the compost pad during the site inspection. This is not considered an environmental concern. Cows were observed grazing in paddocks adjacent to the cleanfill. Given the resource officer’s assessment of the site, this is not considered any issue at present.”
“The site’s resource consents require measures to avoid and minimise the potential for contaminants to enter waterways. Environmental monitoring is also required to be undertaken and reported which assists in identifying whether any contaminants are entering waterbodies. There’s no information we have based on this monitoring that suggests waterways or groundwater are being contaminated with e.coli bacteria from this site.”
The Post asked if Envirofert was complying with monitoring/reporting conditions? According to Stephen Ward the site is generally satisfactorily compliant in providing monitoring data.
The Post is still concerned with the fact that liquid waste is being discharged onto a cleanfill site as this could cause issues and may cross contaminate the site.
Another concern is the liquid could contain chemicals that may prove harmful.
The director of Envirofert, the Regional Council and the company discharging the drilling mud were very forthcoming, helpful and assisted completely with this query raised by The Post on behalf of a concerned citizen.
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Envirofert Cleanfill site in Tuakau