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Piggery effluent turns stream pink, results in $41,250 fine

11 Jul 2014

MEDIA RELEASE 

A Waikato effluent disposal company has been convicted and fined $41,250 for turning a stream pink with piggery effluent and then ‘pretending’ to clean it up.

In June 2013 Farm Effluent Services Limited was contracted to spread piggery effluent on a rural property at Scotsman Valley, approximately 18 kilometres south-east of Hamilton.

The company applied the effluent to land in large volumes, and in wet conditions, resulting in the effluent flowing off the land at multiple locations and into a nearby stream.

A local resident some 900 metres away noticed the Waitakaruru Stream running pink and alerted the Waikato Regional Council. Council officers traced the pink contamination upstream to where the effluent company had been operating and started assessing the scale of the discharge.

The officers were assured that clean up would commence that evening. Later that night Farm Effluent Services Limited placed a tractor on site and operated it in such a way as to appear as if they were cleaning up the remaining effluent. In fact, no clean up was carried out.  

Council staff returned the following day to find piggery effluent still posing a risk to the environment and gave directions to halt further pollution, which was done.

A prosecution was initiated under the Resource Management Act following an investigation by the council. 

In passing sentence this week, Hamilton District Court Judge David Kirkpatrick commented that “there was a lack of adequate precaution in managing the irrigation work, increased by the apparent lack of experience of the staff left in charge. The previous wet weather and the extra difficulties created by the nature of the effluent should have led the company to adopt a more cautious approach”.

The judge termed the company’s effort to deceive the council as a deliberate act that “tends to show a disregard for what harm may have been caused and what clean-up or other remediation should have been undertaken”.

Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch said, “The circumstances of this case are really disappointing. Companies that are set up specifically to deal with effluent have an important role to play in protecting the environment. They must know how to do so lawfully and without causing adverse environmental effects. For a company to get it badly wrong and then attempt to deceive others into thinking they are cleaning up is completely unacceptable.”    

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