Council pulls chain on sewage-disposal plan

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Yet again Queenstown Lakes District Council has abandoned its latest plan for sewage disposal. 

Just three months after adopting a $455,000 sewage-to-land proposal at two secret locations, QLDC has been forced to scrap the idea because “additional risks” have come to light. 

Neither of the two unidentified landowners is willing to commit long-term to the sewage-to-land project, solid waste boss Stefan Borowy told QLDC’s infrastructure committee last week. 

Without their long-term commitment, QLDC investment could be at risk if a landowner pulled out, he says. 

One landowner was put off after talking to “buyers of his product”, Borowy reveals. 

Council staff running the sewage-to-land plan were also warned of a major cost blow-out by dairy giant Fonterra during the New Zealand Land Treatment Collective conference in March. 

Fonterra stated “materials would need to be treated to a very high standard before being applied to land”, Borowy says, requiring “significant financial investment”. 

Last week’s about-turn is the latest in a series of sewage setbacks which have plagued QLDC for at least a decade. 

While the council searches for a workable solution – fruitlessly, so far – sewage sludge continues to be dumped in the Victoria Flats landfill at the far end of Gibbston Valley. 

A blowout looms there too, Borowy warns, because the dumping price will rise considerably in 2013 to an annual cost exceeding $250,000. 

This month’s new idea is the “Ag-Bag”, a composting system that mixes five tonnes of sewage sludge with 2.5 tonnes of mulched green waste to suppress odour. 

Thirty tonnes of the mix is then put into an Ag-Bag attached to a blower, which aerates the waste at 10-minute intervals for six to eight weeks. 

The Ag-Bag is then opened for another six to eight weeks for the compost to “mature”, before being used to fertilise QLDC parks and reserves, and also road reserves. 

The Ag-Bag system, also to be housed at the landfill, will cost $176,000 to set up and $210,000 annually to operate, Borowy says.