Envirofert Investigated

We can reveal that WRC has launched an investigation into Envirofert after The Post Newspaper made inquiries regarding certain ‘filter sludge’ material that is collected on a weekly basis from Watercare in Tuakau, and deposited at Envirofert.

Since 2008 the material in question has been deposited onto Envirofert’s Cleanfill site in Tuakau. These materials appear to contain high levels of certain elements that could prove to be harmful to the local environment and to be outside the consent conditions.

The Post made its inquiries into Envirofert after an application for a resource consent by WaterCare was made, to increase the amount of water it would be taking from the Waikato River on a daily basis. This increase would raise the amount of filter sludge material, which would need to be disposed of at a landfill site.
Questions were raised after The Post requested a copy of the chemical make-up of the filter sludge material from WaterCare plant. Neither WaterCare, Envirofert nor Waikato Regional Council (WRC) could make the report available at the time it was requested.

The Post Newspaper has since received a copy of the report and filter material components (taken from samples on 28 September 2017) from Ryan Marra, the CEO of Envirofert, who has been completely open, transparent and helpful with our inquiries.
After further communication with Waikato Regional Council, WaterCare and Envirofert, we have been made aware that a consultant has been appointed to investigate what appears to be a further case of non-compliance.
It would appear that Envirofert have been profiting financially since 2008 by accepting non-consented material from WaterCare, and potentially now could be fined or forced to clean up the Cleanfill site.
Richard Duirs of Bloxam Burnett Olliver (BBO), who has over 17 years experience as an Environmental Planner, has been appointed to investigate this case on behalf of WRC.

How is this ‘filter sludge material’ produced and why it is a problem?

This filter material is produced at a sophisticated water treatment plant, operated by WaterCare and located in Tuakau, some 40 kms from the mouth of the Waikato River. The plant can treat a peak capacity of 150,000 m3 of water per day.
The treatment they use involves the removal of microbiological, chemical and radiological contaminants via a four-stage, ultra-filtration treatment process. The process produces a ‘sludge’ like material which is referred to as ‘filter sludge’.
This material needs to be disposed off in a safe manner as it contains a number elements that are potentially harmful to the environment.

In essence, this material may have been best suited for a landfill site, similar to the one situated at Hampton Downs, and not a Cleanfill site like Envirofert.
As a direct result of The Post Newspaper’s inquiry, Envirofert has stopped taking this material from WaterCare. For now the practice has been halted by CEO Ryan Marra.
According to Envirofert CEO Ryan Marra, they have engaged the services of scientists from Tonkin and Taylor to investigate the potential harm this material may have had on the environment. They have also asked for recommendations as how they should manage this going forward.

WRC will no doubt be waiting for their consultant to complete his independent investigation and will also look into any report from Tonkin and Taylor on behalf of Envirofert.
The Post Newspaper has been in constant communication with Envirofert, Waikato Regional Council, WaterCare as well as neighbors who surround the property, with regards to this matter.
Boundary neighbour, Lou Dromgool said, “I have been complaining about the smell and noncompliance for years and finally something will be done about it. I feel confident that new CEO Ryan Marra will do the right thing and sort this mess out.”
The Post Newspaper will continue to investigate and report if there are any further developments in this story.

Share your thoughts on the matter. Contact Steve Douglas – steve@thepost.nz

For the record:
Envirofert were approved to take the filter sludge material from WaterCare in 2008 by the Waikato Regional Council, provided it complied with its resource consent and that levels of containments were below the guidelines set by WRC. Envirofert failed to comply, as at least three of the element levels exceed standards set. No tests appear to have been done in the past to check on the sludges’ compliance. Maybe if an annual review or audit was done this could have been prevented.

The ‘filter sludge material’ that has been collected from WaterCare in Tuakau since 2008 and deposited at Envirofert Cleanfill site, shows high levels of Arsenic, Lithium and Aluminium. These high levels are outside Envirofert’s resource consent conditions set by WRC and as such has led to noncompliance.

Arsenic is likely derived from natural geothermal sources in the upper river catchment.

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