Environmental watchdog keeps eye on treated poo

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Discharges into the Shotover River from Queenstown’s multi-million dollar sewage treatment plant have breached environmental standards.

The $30 million high-tech plant was officially opened in February.

But Queenstown’s council admits discharges of treated wastewater into the river didn’t meet contamination limits for three months.

Tests show they’re now “well below” the limits.

But it’s not a good look, especially during the same week as the council admitted it’s facing a court charge over an alleged waste-water overflow near the Kawarau River in February.

Environmental cop the Otago Regional Council says it takes all consent breaches seriously.

Monitoring boss Scott MacLean, of Dunedin, says by email: “We are encouraged by the improving trend since the plant upgrade.

“It is not uncommon for wastewater plants to take some time to achieve the desired results following upgrading infrastructure.”

Queenstown council’s senior project boss Lane Vermaas blames low flows in the Shotover River for the initial breaches from its treatment plant.

“The braid that we normally discharge to has virtually been dry in this period.”

Queenstown council’s chief engineer Ulrich Glasner talks up its new sewage-treatment kit.

He says it’s considering putting more “flow” through the plant, and less through the existing poo ponds.

“The plant itself is performing much better than expected.”

The council is reviewing whether the second stage of its sewage-treatment project – scheduled to happen between 2028 and 2030 – should be brought forward.

Vermaas says: “The growth rate is indicating itself to be a little bit faster than we anticipated.”

dave@scene.co.nz